What Stories Are Waiting To Be Found At The Library?
Edward Hirsch wishes to find that boy he once was, who flew around the library on Sundays, reading and scribbling notes and pictures and “singing with joy.” He’d give anything to find him, Hirsch tells us in his poem, “Branch Library.” I think I knew that boy. He was a runner—skinny legs and skinny arms—and everywhere he went he ran. It wasn’t because he was rushing, or couldn’t wait to get there, it was because he loved to run. He never told any of us that, but watching him we all knew. He bounced, he pranced, he flew, always with a pencil behind his ear and books tucked under his arm: an Archie comic, Calvin and Hobbes, a Gary Paulsen book, and probably Garfield. All the boys loved Garfield.
I never said a word to him, only watched him run.
One summer day though, I was in the library when he was there, too. It was one of those in-between seasons of life when something has ended but the next something hasn’t begun, and there’s not too much to do but listen to the cicadas’ song and wait. Well, I guess the other thing to do is go to the library, which is what I did. Probably I was wishing to find someone, too.
I was at the card catalogue when he showed up next to me. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just loved the order of the cards—how they were organized with their call numbers and one hole punched at the bottom so the bar kept them all together and in place. I liked the sturdiness of them. I liked pretending I knew what I was looking for.
He smiled and I turned red, and he smiled even bigger and moved to a section of the catalogue and filed through the cards with determination. When he found what he was looking for, he made eye contact with me again, then held up a finger, telling me to wait.
I stayed where I was and watched him dash silently over to the nonfiction books in the kids’ section. He pulled a slim, white book off the shelf and clutched it to his chest so I couldn’t see the title. Once he made sure I was watching him, he flipped the book around to reveal its title: “What’s happening to me?” the large, black letters screamed, and I smacked my hands over my mouth so as to prevent the laugh that wanted to escape. The boy’s face matched the title: confused, bewildered, agonized, and my hands became fists in an effort to stop all the sounds of hysterics that were begging to be set free.
He pivoted, stuck the book back on the shelf, and walked to the fiction section, his face a mixture of calm and curiosity—just like he looked when he was running. I watched him choose a worn paperback from the “Adventure is Waiting” display. I watched him check the book out, tuck it underneath his arm, and walk out the library’s front doors. I would’ve had to move to the window to continue to watch him—and I thought about it—but I stayed where I was, and instead turned to the display of books waiting to show me an adventure and felt a spark like a fire that’s just been started at the thought that I’m the one who gets to choose, while the boy outside ran; he flew.
Try It: Library Poetry Prompt
Who do you hope to find in the library? Who have you found in the library? This week, write a poem about being found, or maybe being lost and then found, in a card catalogue, a stack of books, a display promising adventure, and all you have to do is turn the page.
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