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Poem: "The Library at the End of the World" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Library at the End of the World"

This poem came out of the May 3, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from aldersprig by way of a link from haikujaguar .  It was sponsored by janetmiles .  All the books listed by title are visible from my office chair.  The reference to Alexandria, of course, is an allusion to the Great Library.

 

The Library at the End of the World

 


Dream of a library to end all libraries,
an ark of ideas to rebuild the engine of civilization.
Place it on a mountaintop or an ice cap,
surround it with walls of metal and stone,
out of reach of the world's wars.
Stock it with instructions on how to do everything.

Then look at the price tag.
Sigh.
Realize that nobody with that kind of money
cares about this kind of thing.

Forget about the mountain and the stone walls.
Think instead of a house lined with books.
There's a collection of Shakespeare
and a shelf of poetry.
There are field guides and cookbooks.
There are books on linguistics and foreign dictionaries;
there are picture dictionaries and ABCs
in case people forget how to read. 
Here is The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery
for the sewing of clothes and embroidered tapestries.
Here is The Potter's Manual for the throwing of clay.
Here are The House Book and Back to Basics
for homesteading skills.
Here is The Way Things Work with diagrams and directions
for all manner of machines and scientific principles.
Here is The Ever-Changing Sky reminding us
to keep looking up.

It isn't everything, but it's something.
It's a cross-section of creation,
a mote of hope as small as a carrot seed
yet as stubborn as dandelion music.
It's not on a mountain, but in a prairie,
tucked in a snug little ecosystem,
walls woven in a floss of energy
hidden inside ordinary wood.

The ghosts of Alexandria sidle between these shelves
and find themselves at home. 
Start where you are:
the tallest oak grows from one tiny acorn.

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Comments
fayanora From: fayanora Date: May 5th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Have you ever seen the Doctor Who episode taking place on a library that is an entire planet?

The people of Traipah love learning, books, and scrolls. They build libraries and museums like our culture builds sports arenas and gyms. And the Sahn-Kusahn in Grahbahnascia is the largest public library on the planet, with nine floors belowground and nine aboveground (each floor being 0.5 mile squared in area, and 20 foot ceilings), several million books in circulation, several hundred thousand or more ancient scrolls in stasis storage, and they have a database full of digital copies of all written works of Traipah through history in it. They're working on eventually having all the written works, original and translated, of all known civilizations in their database.

Edited at 2011-05-05 03:44 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

>>Have you ever seen the Doctor Who episode taking place on a library that is an entire planet?<<

I'm not sure; it sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't pin it down. I have encountered other renditions of that motif though.

>>The people of Traipah love learning, books, and scrolls. They build libraries and museums like our culture builds sports arenas and gyms. <<

<3
siege From: siege Date: May 5th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd also reference The Star Trek repository called Memory Alpha.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Cool!

Thank you for that reference.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: May 5th, 2011 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this, especially the last line. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

The last line is an old saying, about the importance of starting small.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: May 5th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Aaah. I still like it. :-D
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: May 5th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well said!

Is Dandelion Music a deliberate reference to filk music?

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Filk and folk music both use that phrase and emblem.

I actually wrote an article, "Dandelion Music," about the symbolism and magic of that plant. It's been reprinted online:
http://www.tryskelion.com/tryskelion/dandemus.htm
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: May 5th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Interesting. Kathy Mar has been calling Filk music the Dandelion Conspiracy for as long as I've known her. I wonder if she read your article?
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: May 5th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Also, love the dandelion ritual!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Thank you!

My gardening hat says "North American Dandelion Preservation Society" on it. This place sent some review copies a while back, and I was just thrilled.
http://www.byregion.net/cgibin/users/profiles.pl?username=nadps
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I don't know. I didn't start the trend, just helped push it along a bit. I saw a "Dandelion Music" album years ago and gosh, now there are a bunch of them.
eseme From: eseme Date: May 6th, 2011 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
*grins*

Mine are mostly cookbooks and crafts, but the collection expands. Fiction definitely outnumbers non-fiction at the moment.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

I suspect ours is close to half-and-half. We have massive archives of both fiction and nonfiction.
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