On visiting the New Asian / Old Main
by Penelope Houston 2003

On visiting the New Asian / Old Main

Standing in the informium
I heard the ghosts of librarians
brushing across the marble floor
the small wheels of booktrucks slowly rolling

Arching up 50 feet to the vaulted ceilings
the words of dead authors carved in stone
become too distant to read

We worry about what became of the murals there
while oceans away
missiles pierce the roofs of other people's homes

They will pass right through like a needle into butter
then blow
while the walls implode
We make rubble of the other people's histories

How can I hold up the temple of knowledge with aching hands
while this knowledge of our bloody hands
dances before me?

Column upon column of books
line upon line of letters, words, sentences,
poems, stories and recipes for the perfect chocolate cake
all tilting now
ready to topple

They can never be straightened enough
balanced enough
or filed in a perfect enough order
to stop the inevitable
the towering chaos
the crush

And all the knowledge in this cathedral of knowledge
cannot withdraw
the missile which has pierced the roof so smartly
cannot deny the knowledge
that I have bought and paid for it

And my lines
my letters
words, sentences and poems
have failed to prevent it

written March 26, 2003

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