The Library Elf
I had nowhere to hide
except inside the shadows
of the library’s stairwells.
The paperbacks left
helter-skelter by children
of hooded dwarfs, witches
with magical stones, or elves
who lived behind other stairs.
I read everything. I learned
to descend into books
no one would take home.
Some said I was a made up story
to scare kids and teach them
to return books to their shelves.
Others said I was invisible
and would snatch children
who climbed too far to the top.
* * *
We don’t go there anymore. No one remains
who will take the county highways,
turn at the exit without a sign—
a blank, green face, without numbers—
and pass through the small towns,
each with a Casey’s General Store
and one church or another, piercing the sky.
Year-round fairy lights beat a rhythm
clearly visible a mile or so away,
but the street is little more than gravel,
impossible to travel in the winter.
The small barn still stands and the house
with that staircase of white carpet.
The tread worn and stained with old blood.
Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English. She is the author of five chapbooks, including Branding Girls (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her forthcoming chapbook is She who Loves Her Father from Dancing Girl Press in 2012. Her poetry has appeared in Margie, Feminist Studies, Poet Lore, Cream City Review, Pebble Lake Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her prose has appeared in Arts & Letters, Spittoon, Blackbird, American Short Fiction, 13th Moon, and elsewhere. Her reviews have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Poetry Review, 42Opus, and elsewhere. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com