The librarians in Babel

This being human is being 
a visiting custodian
in the library of Babel 
(that many call the universe);

this being human is
searching 
for a pattern in the garbled nonsense
of scattered syllables
stacked in endless rows,
or hearing a familiar word 
spoken in your mother-tongue
in a crowd of strangers.

this being human,
is aging 
looking for the  librarian
and only on your deathbed
realizing that
in the library of Babel   
everyone and none
is truly a librarian.

The Tower of Babel
Endre Rozsda

Today Kim hosts poetics at dVerse and wants us to write a poem using the lime “this being human is…” taken from a poem “The guesthouse” by Rumi. I went back to my favorite author Jorge Louis Borges and his short story “The library of Babel” for inspiration and using his metaphor. We are all librarians in this world.

March 16, 2021

28 responses to “The librarians in Babel

  1. This is incredibly powerful, Bjorn! The closing image left me wondering whether we as a species even realize what the art of being human truly is? I love; “this being human is searching for a pattern in the garbled nonsense of scattered syllables stacked in endless rows.” 💝💝

  2. I always enjoy your aged librarian poems, Björn, and this one has taken me outside the walls of a library and into the universe. Poets are most definitely human in their search for patterns ‘in the garbled nonsense of scattered syllables’. It’s a shame that we have to wait until we are on our deathbeds to find out ‘everyone and none is truly a librarian’. I was a volunteer/guest librarian on Zoom this afternoon for the weekly session of Young Reading Friends.

  3. I love how you brought the Librarian in this one, and the nod to Borges. A wonderful meditation of the confusion and wonder of life.

  4. I’m always glad you’re around to provide me a librarian, Bjorn; I can never find just the right book… But, then again, i’m not sure there IS one, is there?

  5. I loved the librarian’s take on being human, his “scattered syllables stacked in rows” is well said. We are everyone and none!

  6. The human as visiting custodian is a thought-provoking concept. We aren’t included as part of the place except in a service capacity. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place for those patterns we crave?

  7. That’s an interesting way of looking at life. I like the idea of us all being librarians. As I age I find I am amassing more and more books.

  8. The visiting custodian doesn’t have to know all the answers…just dust the bookshelves! Enjoyed wandering the stacks and wondering about the babble…

  9. I have never heard that before – the library of Babel. Really intriguing and thought provoking. I love your line that everyone and no one is the librarian!

  10. How sad.

    this being human is
    searching
    for a pattern in the garbled nonsense
    of scattered syllables.

    How hard it is to find a meaning in the ways of human…

  11. i like the idea of being human is to become part of the babel wondering what in the world the other person is saying or what those words might mean.
    hearing a familiar word
    spoken in your mother-tongue
    in a crowd of strangers.

  12. Oh, wow, love this idea about Librarians in Borges’ Library of Babel! Being a librarian myself especially appreciated it! We are all visiting custodians, too!

  13. We are all librarians in the grand scheme of life. Our catalog diverse filled with fiction and non-fiction. Think of all the places a librarian can travel.

    Keep this series going…

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