Upon Selling My Vast Library
Good Lord, I have done the unthinkable.
Those shelves once filled with radiant spines
Now stand empty,
Stark and white as the winter that is just drawing
To a close.
The books, my many lives and lungs,
Lie scattered in piles,
Haphazard over floor and table
And the old black chair,
Teetering and on the verge of toppling
The unthinkable: I’m selling the books.
You will protest,
I can see you all,
Hear you all now.
You are your books, young person,
You may say.
Why would I, how could I possibly do away with these
Thousands of pages of ink-dotted paper,
You may inquire.
How could I do such a terrible thing?
Now I am the one to protest.
You may see these books, which number high in the hundreds,
And think how great my intellect must be.
How intelligent this girl here is,
See how many books she has.
She knows how to read, and how to read a lot.
Here now is my secret:
I have not read all these books.
Not even half.
Indeed, some I have never even opened.
But, ah! my reasoning is what you wonder.
And here it is:
I am not what I own.
I am not the number of books that I own.
I am not even the number of books I have read.
I am not even the number of stars I have glimpsed,
Or the clouds that stand in their stead.
And I do not wished to be viewed as such.
These books, though my heart lies within them,
Hold only the value I give them.
The substance of these objects, you see,
Is not in the solid form.
This paper is dead,
And one hundred years from now will rot away
And become like the loam beneath our shoes.
The paper is the vessel in which the gold has been imbued:
Words, eternal wisdom set in onyx ink,
Words are the only thing of worth in these blocks of wooden pulp.
Words and ideas and truths which were and are and will come to be.
And these blocks of paper are hung with strings,
Tethering me to this small square of a room.
Intricate webs of thread attached to my arms and feet,
And everywhere I go
I must drag along eight-hundred cubes of what once was wood.
How am I to travel the world
With eight-hundred strings tying me here,
Eight-hundred tiny hands holding me down,
That I must carry or sink with the weight beneath the sea.
And so, I am doing the unthinkable,
Which in truth is the only solution.
With swift scissors I will cut away the webbing strings
And throw the blocks, the books, away from me.
For I can no longer bear the burden that I have made them out to be.
The more things, the more books that I come to own,
The more they will come to own me.
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