The last library on earth

The Babel library was vast and once it had been filled with scholars, students and discourse. In the past the words had worth and their voices echoed still between the shelves.

Since many years only one last aging librarian walked barefoot in the halls.

When he was younger he had a purpose to create and grow ideas. He still kept the notebooks of his youth but when the scholars and the students left for other wars, he realized that he could nurture verses from ink they had left.

His garden bloomed but he knew the library had changed into a graveyard for voices.

Whenever there was visitors he fed them sentences and gave them poetry for drink, but he read their eyes that world was changing. The questions of the past had been replaced with simple answers, truth replaced by lies.

The hum of outside world, grew louder and then when zealous men came with burning eyes for books to burn the corridor and halls were filled with uniforms and boots.

Around the pyre of poetry they marched with manuscripts and books and finally the aged librarian watched his notebooks catching fire.

Afterwards when everything was silent, when words had turned to ash. The soldiers left him to the ruins of his kingdom and the last remaining pillar fell and mortar crumbled into dust.

Then the aged librarian mumbled verses left from dying books. His gaze turned skyward, he cloud-gazed, talked to stars before he stumbled slowly, turned his back to us and left, leaving only footprints in the sand that once was library and held the answers we have lost.

But somewhere in the crowd of beggars there’s a little girl. She listened to his words, collected syllables from sand and wrote his poems in her heart and maybe in those sentences a seed for yet another library is growing.

310 words of fiction for Magaly at PU based on my last poem about the aged librarian, as well as some of the other poems in the series.

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March 3, 2019

31 responses to “The last library on earth

  1. I can’t imagine a world without books… one of the cons of technology… It’s sad that libraries are shut down…. Nice thought there…. Visiting you after a really long time. Happy to see you!

  2. Björn, your poem is filled with pain and hope. I am so deeply touched
    by the message and the warning.
    One gets to love the librarian who saves phrases and lines. We need those dedicated people.
    And the little girl who collected syllables and words from the sand. To
    hopefully grow a new garden of word.

    miriam

  3. You set up a whole world in this small space, with a definite sense of past, present, and hopeful future. I’m predisposed to love any character who is a lover of books, and I’ve been a fan of your librarian poems, but this story would have been just as powerful and moving if this were the first time I’d ever read about him.

  4. This story has managed to break my heart and start mending it at the same time. It’s fascinating (and painful) to see the librarian’s world fall to pieces, to watch him begin to fade until there is so little of him and his life that I’m convinced all is over. Then, that final scene, that final “But” fills the heart with the blood of tomorrow. How good it is to be saved by girl that has so little… while holding the beginning of everything.

  5. Oh, this is certainly a cautionary tale. The aged librarian is such a strong character, and he must be so broken-hearted and devastated when he watches even his notebooks burning! I do hope that we, in our world, do not end up with a ‘graveyard of voices.’ I like the hope at the end — with the young girl! May it be so!

  6. As with the others, the aged librarian series, or pieces of a puzzle as you put it, remains a poignant read. This poem perhaps more so than those which came before. The destruction of libraries is of course not a new thing. I wonder if these aren’t based on the Library of Alexandria? The loss of knowledge is devastating to every person alive, not only your aged librarian.
    I like how you handed the baton to the little girl – note, girl. There are times throughout human history where women were accepted and respected as scholars; Hypatia, a philosopher and teacher at the time of the Library of Alexandria’s burning, the first who comes to mind. I wonder if Cleopatra met her? Just a thought after reading up again about it – a quick glance at what’s available on the internet.

  7. Oh Bjorn, thank heaven for that little girl at the end. I cant imagine a world without books. And imagine the librarian, seeing his notebooks – full of his life’s words – burning. Ack! You wrote this so well!

  8. This is such a richly woven tale, Bjorn! ❤️ I was especially touched by this part; ” She listened to his words, collected syllables from sand and wrote his poems in her heart.” 🙂

  9. There is always an ember of rage ready to flare at the idea of burning books–but I loved the way you showed their life in the spoken verses of the librarian and then catching in the girl at the end. I’m imagining a more powerful bonfire of ideas and wonder possible beyond the destruction.

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