This is a Torn World poem, but it has not yet been approved by the canon board. (I did ask ellenmillion for a quick assessment of my idea, and it should work for Torn World.) I will be submitting this through the Torn World site later, when I have time for that. For now, please consider it potentially canon rather than canon.
This poem was inspired by a conversational thread of prompts between haikujaguar and aldersprig. It has been sponsored by laffingkat, so if or when it gets approved by the canon board, it will be reposted on Torn World for everyone to see there.
If you're not familiar with the setting: The Southern Empire is a bureaucratic behemoth of a culture covering most of a continent. It keeps most people happy most of the time, but some folks get the short end of the stick. (Registered members can read the "Empire" article.) It got this way by assimilating the neighboring cultures as it expanded. Not all of them have melted ... quite completely ... so this scenario sprouted from my fertile little mind.
-- a Torn World poem
This librarian's wisdom lives in his fingertips,
a surreptitious skill, hidden yet invincible.
He presses his letters into the parchment, leaving behind
a pattern of lines and dashes and dots.
He sees with his hands, not with his eyes,
reading the words written in ridges and pips.
This archive is older than the Empire, but to say that
is forbidden -- even to mention its existence is forbidden.
The Empire has made a place for its cripples
and intends to keep them in it.
That place is not a library. The Empire has no books
for handreading, no librarians who cannot see.
Still the roots of Old Roluma reach deep,
and the war only ripped off the leaves of the culture.
The underground movement remains, even in Faraar,
the great and shining city of the Empire.
Here in the blind darkness of this clandestine archive,
the librarian reads with his literate fingertips.
His stylus writes through the long hours of the night,
copying and recopying that which must be remembered.
The librarian knows that there are others of his kind, other archives --
but he does not know who, or where, and does not want to know.
What he does not know cannot be tortured out of him;
what he has copied and sent away cannot be destroyed here.
What the tribes of Roluma once held now lies buried
under the heavy pavers of the Empire.
Yet as every gardener knows, weeds are invincible,
wiggling their way through cracks until they shoulder the stones aside.
Someday the foundations of the Empire will shake,
and the roots of old will sprout anew.
Someday the time will be right for the people of Roluma to rise
and reclaim their proper place in the world.
Then the librarian will leave his subterranean den
and fulfill the purpose in whose hope he was planted long ago.
He will turn his face like a flower toward the sun's warmth.
He will read his books aloud to a hushed and listening crowd.