Savor the heady dry breath.

I miss spending time in the public library, not that I have had a great deal of that experience. In my youth the city library was not a convenient place to study, being ten miles from our house, and my elementary school had no library.

When I stayed with my grandma she would actually drop my sisters and me off at the branch library in Berkeley while she ran errands and we could roam at liberty for an hour. I’m sure none of us knew what a lavish gift that was, but from this vantage point I can appreciate the sublimity, and the mental picture of the room where I spent the most time is still there.

Back home in the country we depended on the bookmobile that every two weeks provided plenty of the sensory excitement that is the subject of the poem below. The visits were brief and fairly businesslike, as we had to jostle a bit with the other young patrons in that cramped space and there certainly was nowhere to sit and ponder. Mom was waiting outside in the car.

I paid no conscious attention to anything but the book titles, being mainly interested in getting my stash to take home and savor in a more purely intellectual fashion. But now, so long removed, if I think on that county van for only a minute, I can remember the clunking sounds  of books being pulled off shelves and put back, and our tennis shoes scuffling around in the grit that we’d brought in from the gravelly parking lot. The librarian-driver would speak as few quiet words as possible as she stamped our cards. And the scent of the books — it’s still in me.

Library
by Valerie Worth

No need even
To take out
A book: only
Go inside
And savor
The heady
Dry breath of
Ink and paper,
Or stand and
Listen to the
Silent twitter
Of a billion
Tiny busy
Black words.

From All the Small Poems and Fourteen More

6 thoughts on “Savor the heady dry breath.

  1. Beautiful poem! I loved the tiny public library in my hometown. The floors creaked and the shelves were VERY old. I can picture the children’s section in my mind and the very shelf where I found Harriet the Spy. I loved being there.

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  2. I walked around the library smelling the books. I mean, actually opening them up and taking a big whiff. This poem speaks to me. And I have fond memories of the book mobile, too!

    xofrances

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  3. I worked in the library at my university when all the years I was in college. I loved that job. Except for all the static electricity in the air, it was so great. I think my favorite parts were mending books that were broken, or filing or retrieving ancient books and folios in the basement, where regular patrons couldn’t go. But I loved just checking out books to people too.

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  4. The only benefit I receive from my county tax dollars is the public library and law enforcement. I certainly am not proud of the fact the public school system is churning out high school “graduates” who read at an 8th grade level with even lower math skills.

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