To Live in Interesting Times

The fluorescent light seems to struggle
against death. Not dead yet, the fixture
pulses every few or several seconds
bequeathing humility to the shadows.

The light is beacon-like above the shelves
of biography—the book named Elon Musk,
the book named Flannery O’Connor.
Not being people, the biographies seem

un-irritated, self-contained. I am so
irritated I can barely contain myself.
Uncle, I have “practis’d so long to learn to read,”
but now feel myself as attention launched against

that light. Someone is responsible.
I am just a patron of this library.


Click here to read Marc Rahe on the origin of the poems.


Image: “134/335 – Heimat/Home” by Boris Thaser, licensed under CC 2.0.

Marc Rahe:
I don’t always know what happens in my mind when I write a poem.
Most days, I can be pretty distractible. Being in a quiet, predictable environment drastically improves the quality of my focus. Currently, the idea of being inside a library is something of a fantasy but, before the pandemic, libraries were my go-to places for reading and writing.

I miss libraries. They weren’t always as predictable as I wished them to be, but they were still wonderful. It’s helplessness that drives the irritability of “To Live in Interesting Times.” The fascinating interruption of quiet predictability is felt as destructive intrusion.

I know I was at the library reading at a cubicle near the shelves of biography, but I couldn’t concentrate. I don’t remember whether there was actually anything wrong with the light. I remember I was thinking about institutions and responsibility. Helplessness and fear, maybe, drive the irritability of this poem. I feel something is doing its part when F follows E on a series of shelves.

Marc Rahe
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