In Worcester, Massachusetts,
outside the Worcester Free Public Library,
there’s a line of homeless people
waiting to freshen up in the library’s
free public toilets. And the senior librarian
isn’t happy about it. How many will borrow a book
when they’re done in the toilets? she asks the junior librarian
who is returning a book of poems by Elizabeth Bishop
to the poetry shelf. Before she moved to Worcester
for the junior librarian job, the junior librarian
lived with her aunt in Greencastle, Indiana,
and didn’t even know how to pronounce Worcester.
As for the homeless people, they aren’t
happy about it, either. Some are heroin addicts.
And some are mentally ill. And some are both.
And some are neither. And some are here illegally
and trying to acquire English by distilling it
from the airwaves and the signage. And they would all
rather be reading their own books on their own
toilets in their own homes. Nevertheless, they love
the motion-activated faucets with sensors in them
because they need only hold up their empty hands to receive
the generous wordless warm egalitarian water flowing
over their wrists and palms and backs of their hands
like a blessing. And all of them, every last one,
would pronounce Worcester perfectly,
as a sort of benign library fine, if asked.

Paul Hostovsky's latest book of poems, The Bad Guys, won the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize for 2015. His poems have been featured on Poetry DailyVerse DailyThe Writer's Almanac, and have won a Pushcart Prize and two Best of the Net awards.

To read more of his work, visit him at www.paulhostovsky.com.