Les Livres (BW).jpg

By Bridget Wallace

The Long Room of Trinity College

By John Benhart


I sit in the hall of ancient books and busts
Lofty arches and dark cherry wood
If the books could move
They too would scuffle along the floor
Send voluminous laughs rising to the roof
Clashes of assorted conversations
Dissonant in language and subject
Maybe they too would sit on the benches
Like the multitude of tourists
Distracted by LCD phone screens
Or amble around to find the right angle
From which to click a shutter closed

The visitors leave the shadowed hall
With a piece of pixelated past
That misses the true color of the wood
And the smell of aged dust
Do the books deserve to leave the library-turned-museum?
At least they, once freed
Would quit the wooden walls to yell and dance
And converse in cacophony

Do the busts also worry that the shadows distract
From their scholarly canons and literary liturgies
And that each moment lost is like a rolled stone
Sealing a cavern of un-ripened grain?

Maybe they on their pedestals
Of milky marble, curdled by the crowds
Are at peace as they listen to the calls
Of the valorous volumes
The shrieks of epics and dramas, science and history
Yells now and forever more, bar none but inferno
But even then, the books release their words one last time
And sizzle out

That is why I now leave a chisel and a slab
Before Socrates, Shakespeare, and Swift
So that they, of marble impervious to blaze
Might etch the dying, burning stories
The last time they are uttered and remembered.