box of jars

heidi shira tannenbaum
The old System was still in place—
there were slips of pastel paper everywhere,
falling from the counter, stuck into corners,
crumpled in pockets and carpeting the corridor.
It was her job to gather them all up
and turn them into gears that creaked,
so as to both produce and preserve. In that way
the books refilled the shelves. The gramophone man
was examining a bruised spine with an old label
numbered 1111 at a time when they were already
at 4444. Perhaps by then it should have 
been slipped into the bunker to sit for ages piled
in the cold concrete, only to resurface in winter,
when the people no longer expected something new.
The gramophone man noticed the crease marks 
that spread like broken capillaries
across the black cover, but he did not
seem to care. He caught her eye.