“To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do.”—Hermann Hesse (via melancholynotes)
Imagine you can consider all ideas And images represented by all words And numbers in all libraries worldwide. Open the book of this consideration. Touch the paper. See the illustration Of you, reading, when you were ten In your local library. Turn Several pages. Now read how you And that other person ignited romance In, of all places, the stacks, third floor, In quite a different library. Snowflakes Brushed against dark glass as you two Stood between PQ and PR.
Now go to the index. Find “possibility.” Look up from the book. The librarian Who looks away was watching you. She knows how to phrase the question You want answered.
Librarians know where wisdom’s stored. They catalogue the countless forms Of silence and tell people what they Didn’t know they wanted to know. They treat the mentally fractured As if they’re whole, the dull as if they’re Sharp, Winter as if it’s Summer.
A band of sunlight angles through high Windows, brightens shoes of a librarian, Who knows the patron in the gray enormous Coat will steal a book about sex or wiccans. She knows some Christians will steal books Deemed Satanic, ignoring a commandment And the homeless person sleeping in a chair. She knows some atheists treat Library as Church, so when she moves into shadows, She does so quietly. She worries for books.
For the librarian knows books are easily burned, Recycled, or digitized, reduced to oxygen, carbon, Silicon, and such basic elements as hate and Budgetary cuts. She wishes presidents of The United States would consult librarians Before going to war. It would save so much time, So many lives. She knows exactly which references Know how badly any war will go and how soon Citizens come to loathe their leaders. She knows How to find stories about all the libraries Wiped out by war. She knows patrons who’ve Been harmed by war. Sometimes they set off alarms. Someone asks her, “Can you help me find out If I’m related to Napoleon? ” Yes, ” she answers, “Come with me, please.”
All libraries may now gather inside invisible Electrons. After closing time, books in Sweden Send emails to maps in Chile. A librarian in Topeka Posts a reply to one in Tokyo, adding to a blue thread Wrapped around the globe.
As sincerely as librarians worry for books, for shelves, For catalogues, buildings, and best practices, So should we worry for librarians, for images and ideas.
At a table in a library, a circle of light Lies on a book. The hand not writing turns The page, and something important happens.
My favorite parts of this poem, highlighted in bold, are entirely true.
“When writing goes painfully, when it’s hideously difficult, and one feels real despair (ah, the despair, silly as it is, is real!)–then naturally one ought to continue with the work; it would be cowardly to retreat. But when writing goes smoothly–why then one certainly should keep on working, since it would be stupid to stop. Consequently one is always writing or should be writing.”—Joyce Carol Oates (via wordpainting)
“The writer by nature of his profession is a dreamer and a conscious dreamer. How, without love and the intuition that comes from love, can a human being place himself in the situation of another human being? He must imagine, and imagination takes humility, love, and great courage. How can you create a character without love and the struggle that goes with love?”—Carson McCullers ~ from an essay on writing republished in The Mortgaged Heart (Houghton Mifflin, c1971, c2005)