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A (future librarian’s?) favorite poem


Well, it’s one of them anyway. I’m currently working on a Master’s in Library Science, but am still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I just wanted to share for three reasons: 1) because I love this poem by Rita Dove, 2) I love to read, period, and really, this poem could be describing me to a “t” (actually, I wish I were reading my new fix right this minute: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer), and 3) the poem inspires me to be this librarian and to have an impeccable blouse (and a British accent).

Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

For a fifteen-year-old there was plenty
to do: Browse the magazines,
slip into the Adult Section to see
what vast tristesse was born of rush-hour traffic,
décolletés, and the plague of too much money.
There was so much to discoverhow to
lay out a road, the language of flowers,
and the place of women in the tribe of Moost.
There were equations elegant as a French twist,
fractal geometry’s unwinding maple leaf;

I could follow, step-by-step, the slow disclosure
of a pineapple Jell-O moldor take
the path of Harold’s purple crayon through
the bedroom window and onto a lavender
spill of stars. Oh, I could walk any aisle
and smell wisdom, put a hand out to touch
the rough curve of bound leather,
the harsh parchment of dreams.

As for the improbable librarian
with her salt and paprika upsweep,
her British accent and sweater clip
(mom of a kid I knew from school)
I’d go up to her desk and ask for help
on bareback rodeo or binary codes,
phonics, Gestalt theory,
lead poisoning in the Late Roman Empire,
the play of light in Dutch Renaissance painting;
I would claim to be researching
pre-Columbian pottery or Chinese foot-binding,
but all I wanted to know was:
Tell me what you’ve read that keeps
that half smile afloat
above the collar of your impeccable blouse.

So I read Gone with the Wind because
it was big, and haiku because they were small.
I studied history for its rhapsody of dates,
lingered over Cubist art for the way
it showed all sides of a guitar at once.
All the time in the world was there, and sometimes
all the world on a single page.
As much as I could hold
on my plastic card’s imprint I took,

greedily: six books, six volumes of bliss,
the stuff we humans are made of:
words and sighs and silence,
ink and whips, Brahma and cosine,
corsets and poetry and blood sugar levels
I carried it home, past five blocks of aluminum siding
and the old garage where, on its boarded-up doors,
someone had scrawled:

I can eat an elephant
if I take small bites.

Yes, I said, to no one in particular: That’s
what I’m gonna do!

by Rita Dove, from On the Bus with Rosa Parks.

{pic of SLC public libraryyou can read my thoughts on the place here.}


I am a children's librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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6 Responses

  1. Deborah says:

    If you are reading New Moon, that means you have finished Twilight! Yeah! Be sure to check out Stephenie Meyer’s website where you can read chapter 1 from Edward’s perspective. (There’s a link to it on my other blog.)

  2. Angry Mormon Liberal says:

    Ah… Another librarian of the Bloggernacle. Of course, I’m of the dark side (Corporate Librarianship and KM) and peripherally the DAMU but dang it’s good to see another person in an MLIS program.

    Up with Dewey…or alternatively the AACR2r and LoC…lol

  3. jana says:

    I am also a HUGE fan of the SLC library. Our trips to SL always include some time there. It’s like Mecca for our book-lovin’ family! 🙂

  4. AmyB says:

    What a delightful poem! I worked in a library all through high school and absolutely loved it. There’s something magical about being among stacks and stacks of books.

  5. Brooke says:

    Deborah, thanks for the tip on that chapter. I finished the book this morning and by afternoon, I was going through withdrawls!

  1. April 8, 2008

    […] idea of what people post about by number of comments. Deborah’s virtual oases, Brooke’s poetry, and EmilyCC’s recipes, for example, are more FYE (for your edification) than […]

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