After and before are words

After all our wars
the blood-lust carnage, 
after pilfering and rapes.
after burning books
when all is silent, 
slowing under sullen skies;
after every word has bled 
and  turned to ash,
where bread is bones
and wine is blood
the library is closed.

There the final pillar tumbled
and mortar holding bricks
has crumbled into sand,
the aged librarian
still mumbles verses from 
his dying books;
he turns skyward, 
cloud-gazing, stumbling;
daylight-owl-like
he turns withershins 
he leaves;
keeping in his heart the poetry of past,
and where only footprints in the dust remain
the sun still dares
illuminating this, 
our sacred ground
that once was kingdom, library, and orchard:
that held the questions 
to the answers
that only the librarian has kept;

He will return
(will we?)

Untitled (Desert Landscape) by Salvador Dalihtt

Today I host Open link Live at dVerse. We open at 9 PM CET (3 PM EST) and you are welcome to join for a bit of live versing.

December 10, 2020

25 responses to “After and before are words

  1. This is good- I blinked when I read the line “the library is closed” after having having read the build-up.
    I admit, I don’t fully understand dVerse, but I know good wordplay when I see it…Thanks you. I like your work and value your perspectives.
    ~FF

    • I’m pleased you mentioned your love of Borges, because there is definitely something Borgesian about your Aged Librarian. I’m trying to read him in Spanish at the moment but that’s a challenge for my limited vocabulary!

  2. Powerful, poignant, and dystopian. I love seeing another poem about the erudite librarian. Libraries (or any access to books) are indeed key to discovering worlds, similar or different. How eloquently and beautifully penned.

  3. This is incredibly stunning, Bjorn! 💝 I love the dystopian touch to this poem and the way you have portrayed the possibility of chaos and bedlam. Especially moved by; “he leaves; keeping in his heart the poetry of past, and where only footprints in the dust remain the sun still dares illuminating this.” 🙂

  4. The aged librarian keeps the fire of hope alive, a beacon we are drawn to. As long as there are those who remember, there is hope. Very nice to hear you read this aloud today.

  5. Oh, we owe you so very much, BR; not only for hosting these wonderful OLN events, but sharing this monstrously good work with us while doing so. This one, in particular, just blew me away.

  6. I enjoyed watching the recording of you read today! Sorry I wasn’t there live! I like that the librarian is still mumbling verses here, the words shall live on, as always! 💖

  7. keeping in his heart the poetry of past,
    and where only footprints in the dust remain

    As we age this becomes more and more important. Love your tale of the end of the library… and the homeless old librarian!

  8. This reminds us that no one is immune to the effects of the actions of man, and that there is always a price to pay.
    I enjoyed hearing the backstory of this at the live event.

  9. The title is quite biblical, Björn, with echoes of ‘In the beginning there was the word’, but nothing really exists until you name it, or so they say. As you know, I am a fan of the aged librarian, and I enjoyed your reading. I had to listen carefully, as the sound wasn’t very clear, but I couldn’t help gasping at the line ‘The library is closed’, which has been the case during lockdown. The opening lines hark back to the Second World War, with the ‘pilfering and rapes’ and the burning of books, but they could also apply to the present in some ways. I can imagine the aged librarian mumbling ‘verses from his dying books’ as he leaves ‘keeping in his heart the poetry of past’ – it reminds me a bit of the old Rush concept album 2112.

  10. So sad I missed the chat, but thanks for linking me up. Hopefully, this strong and stunning poem does not mean the end, the closure, of the aged librarian saga. There is so much more that can be mined from that premise, that world. Oddly, I began to see the old librarian as Jewish, As mentioned the parallels between the Pandemic and the Holocaust are unmistakeable.

  11. He will return
    (will we?)

    Good question! After all the carnage and destruction, Man has to pick up the pieces again and hopefully not to be destroyed yet again

    Hank

  12. Enjoyed your reading. I thought especially powerful that libraries hold questions to answers. We think we have the answers so often, but the key is to be able to question, therein is the true kindness and grace we can give each other, rather than fiats. Hope in that this will return, and poignant that you close with a question. I love your librarian, passing through and in between the times.

  13. This is wonderful. I love the poetic flow of your words and the finely tuned images you create to carry your deeper meaning. I was trying to get to this my own clumsy poem.

  14. This is wonderful. I love the poetic flow of your words and the finely tuned images you create to carry your deeper meaning. I was trying to get to this my own clumsy poem.

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