In absence of mirrors imposed
by conventions of beauty
or personal grace
the aged librarian still
can see himself as a shadow
an apparition or ghost
slowly shifting
in his private list
of books
(both toxic and benign)
or as verses
mined from the masses
of meaningless words
in boring accounts from the past.

His library exile
has never been
his virtue
but a choice
both selfish and shameless
an oblation of wealth and of youth
or the trauma sifted from texts,
as hardship in self.

The library was never a prison
not his asylum, but
a picket-fenced garden
filled with bracken and bramble
a hidden hermit’s abode
or a cave in the jungle
where snippets of stifled voices
can tell him the stories
of virulent clamor
clawing communities
shut off from his stubborn
aloofness in words.

Garden of the Asylum and Tree Trunks and a Stone Bench
Vincent van Gogh

Today we are having Open Link Night at dVerse hosted by me. We open at 9 PM CET and for the first hour we will be live so you may join and share your poem almost IRL.

September 16, 2021

26 responses to “Asylum

  1. Bjorn,
    Fascinated by the librarian, whose inner life unveiled slowly is one of exile from all but the “stifled voices” who tell of an asylum without.

  2. Ah Yes indeed Bjorn, quite a powerful vision you’ve conjured here. May surprise you to know that my profession was as a librarian for over thirty years, back in the days when I still had a proper job… And, blow me, its true – I often still feel both selfish and shameless to this day… Hey! Ho! Very rich writing and strong visualisations, as ever my friend.

  3. I can almost hear the muffled voices although the library feels more imposing than a garden to me. Haunted maybe?

  4. Such a lovely asylum–“verses mined from the masses of meaningless words”. Libraries always make me a tad uneasy. Give me an old book store with three cats please.

  5. This is exquisitely woven, Bjorn! 😀 I especially admire the use of alliteration in “stories of virulent clamor clawing communities.” 💝💝

  6. Bjorn this one is so richly complex it will take several readings to sort it out. My first impression is that the librarian feels guilt but also a lot of other mixed feelings regarding his time in the asylum of the library. Asylum is a perfect word because it has different connotations that you’ve done a good job of exploring in your poem.

  7. p.s. I just noticed that the drawing is by Van Gogh, which I think is a purposeful choice in that he was in an asylum voluntarily yet at the same time did some of his best work while he was there. Excellent choice to lend support to your words.

  8. The library has its own labyrinthine depths, as you have illustrated so well here. I love the mention ‘of books/(both toxic and benign)’ and the examination of the liminal space between the external library and the library of the mind.

    Thanks for hosting another great OLN!

  9. clawing communities
    shut off from his stubborn
    aloofness in words

    It very much appears to be an individual who makes himself to be above all others happy being just by himself.


  10. Every time you return to this metaphor, Bjorn, you flesh it out a little more. This particular instance is haunting and sharp. I especially like “..The library was never a prison/not his asylum, but/a picket-fenced garden..” that is, a place where the soul can find peace.

  11. Always enjoy your librarian poems Björn. This one is intriguing. Mirrors. Voices. Shadows. Isolation and garden produce quite a stew of bracken and bramble and the Van Gogh is an excellent image to team up with this one.
    Might i mention now that i am a retired Library Assistant. Now published writer. ☺☺☺


  12. The way you have framed the writeup totally haunts me. Reminded me of the conjuring cinema first part. Reading scary stuff is kind of my passion as well, want more from you. Am waiting!

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