Learning from students

In the recess deep in his chest
he carries not the words of librarians passed,
but the tantrums of toddlers, his childhood;
In the folds of his bathrobe;
not hidden are hands of his father
but the white-knuckled fists of boisterous boys.
In the notebooks he carries not inked
the wisdom from elders
but the delighted doodling by youngsters.

When fathers have faded for fierceness
of sons he leaves the shadows for sunlight;
when future is written on pages of changes,
the aged librarian leaves what’s already written
for what’s yet to be scribbled.
When maps are distorted, follow the sun;
for teachers it’s time to learn from their students.

The aged librarian picks up his pen,
a notebook, his cane and leaves his study,
to seek for the questions of childhood
leaving behind the answers he’s gathered.

Pieta (Revolution by Night)
by Max Ernst

Brendan wants us to contemplate the father-son duality at toads. Inspired by an essay by James Hillman (“Senex and Puer”) Brendan asks several important questions for us to write on. Seeing the split between the aging white male and the cosmopolitan youth I can see the puer in me (and in the aged librarian) stirring…

I will also link this to Poetry Pantry tomorrow.
June 16, 2018

32 responses to “Learning from students

  1. Well done, Bjorn. There are many aging flying youths among us — our civilization (and, sadly, culture) is largely unfathered, ghosted by the murdered king of Denmark in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Your aging librarian is a brooding self-reflective figure, he who consumed, like Saturn, all those books, enough to become a walking library. Lots of knowledge stored there. There is one polarity between generations of father and so,; but it’s also within every male psyche, what’s old and what’s forever young in us: the battle is within. Fathers may fade into the fierceness of sons, but when an aged library shelves his books in order to give breath to boys, well that’s a sacrifice worth writing a poem for. Not sure how many of the gals at the Pond will respond to challenge — I hope so — but it’s great you threw your log on the fire.

    • My father died so many years ago, so first I was at a loss … but I remembered my persona who could step in for me this time… and yes sometimes we just have to write the future instead of just giving the answers.

  2. I have difficulty with anything ‘father’ having never known mine, but your poem brought a real generational connection that can happen, if when one isn’t aware of it at the time. Wonderfully done, Björn.

  3. Knowledge passes is various ways. Past to present to future…we all find our own answers, but sometimes forget that these answers have roots in the past. I enjoyed this, Bjorn.

  4. This poem is intricate and thought-provoking. Especially vivid, the father’s hands……I really love the lines “When fathers have faded for fierceness of sons he leaves the shadows for sunlight;”. And I always love it when the aged librarian makes an appearance.

  5. Do the questions of childhood ever get answered? Whatever journey he is on, leaving all the answers behind, it would be worthwhile going along with him…

  6. The best days of our life are the childhood days and they should be cherished alwaya…..

  7. Good heavens, the aged librarian leaves his study! That’s momentous. He himself seems to have gained new youthfulness with this foray into all the uncertainty of a living future.

  8. This is incredibly poignant, Bjorn! Especially like; “When fathers have faded for fierceness of sons he leaves the shadows for sunlight.”

  9. I love this poem, Bjorn, and how you’ve explored the father-son relationship through the aged librarian.I especially love the way you hide the toddlers’ tantrums and childhood in his chest and the boisterous boys’ fists in his bathrobe, and the lines:
    ‘When maps are distorted, follow the sun;
    for teachers it’s time to learn from their students’.

  10. We understand our fathers better when we are fathers ourselves but we also discover too that just as we ourselves have faults and weaknesses they did too.

  11. Ah, leaving behind the answers already gathered—presumably so he can search for new ones, more refined ones. For me, this poem ends on a note of hope. Thank you.

  12. The relationships of families, Mothers and daughters, Fathers and sons, sister, brothers, are just the beginning of the search. No real answers all dysfunctional in their ways.

  13. Yes, yes Bjorn -so well captured, balanced and measured against youthfulness on life’s journey too… Funnily enough I used to be a librarian, back in the day when I had a proper job!

  14. Guess there are a lot of notes to be written by the old Librarian, this is an age vastly different from when he was a boy. Happy you dropped by my Sunday Standard

    much love…

  15. I love that the librarian is wise enough to know there’s still much to be learned from people who may be answering the life’s questions in a way different from how he did when he first confronted them.

  16. kaykuala

    to seek for the questions of childhood
    leaving behind the answers he’s gathered.

    A dedication only meant for those long committed to their cause. They could go about it with the passion of youth for questions long unanswered!


  17. Bjorn, you gave lots to think about from your older librarian. I like his wisdom and his efforts to share that. I also learned a lot from my students, college students. They are developing a new vocabulary and replacing our old.
    Strip center is a row of strip joints
    Oral sex is not sex, just a party game
    On-line dating is a safe way to meet
    Parents are unreasonable in regards to body piercing. (One student would complain of his dad’s reaction to his nose ring. The day he showed up with it missing I mentioned that his dad might now be pleased. He said, well Dad didn’t like his new one either. He opened his mouth to show me his tongue ring)
    Similar with tatoos, I seldom went there. But since I’ve retired I see more and more parents with excessive tatoos. (Tatoos are suggestive in that a natural reaction is to wonder what tattoo work we aren’t seeing, that they aren’t showing in public)
    The list goes on but these bubbled to my memory’s top just now.

  18. When fathers have faded for fierceness
    of sons he leaves the shadows for sunlight

    These two lines are just perfectly structured. I so enjoyed your poem.

  19. This is a rich tapestry of images, metaphors and wisdom – with a surprising twist, in the aged Librarian choosing to seek out from a different perspective. And each line, as others have noted, are wonderful – the counterpoints and seeming contradictions, as well as the this isn’t what it is – effective to a new level –

    I really like the layers, and the journey here – how it felt like we were/are seeing a personal journey from toddler to old man – and connections made – lost and found, and the discovery of still more to come ….

    This really is a wonderful piece – and you have to sit with it – to absorb its fullness – and complexity …. it seems the Aged Librarian has turned a corner here – a pivotal point in the journey.

  20. One to keep re-reading and take something new away each time. Ethereal and worldly at the same.

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