In Favor of Neatness

My ex-boss was in favor of neatness.
So much so that I’m sure he would have
applauded ground zero at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki because, vaporized,
there was less to clean up.
No sympathy for the survivors further
outside the kill ring, with their limbs shredded
and skins flapping. They created bloody gauze,
and, eventually, would need coffins, which,
of course, would take up space in his warehouse.
A relative, (who I cannot name) decreed, like
a Pope, that there was a perfect number of books
allowed on the shelf in each child’s room. If you
want a new one, you must make a sacrifice.
Think about this for a moment before you form
your answer: Is it to be Charlotte for Black Beauty?
Aesop for Grimm? Tom for Huck?
Or, later: Milton for Marlowe? Elliott
for Pound? Toni for Maya?
This self-imposed sophia-choice is a concept
as alien to me as neatness. My Mother recognizes
it: Yes, she declares, one day your stack of books
will collapse and bring down the house.
What a way to go, I think! Lungs not sucked dry
in a flash-over vacuum, but death surrounded and
covered by the weight of old and much-loved friends.

—Yvette Viets Flaten, Eau Claire, WI