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.
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.
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.