Poetry Shelf Monday poem: ‘Libraries like icebergs’ by a Wellington poet and librarian

Libraries like icebergs

Proximity to the library is having one’s hand on the pulse of the universe. It’s turning to see a dear friend in a room absolutely rotten with strangers. It’s looking down on a familiar city from a great height, sweat cooling on your back, and it’s still, so still, that you think you’ve missed the apocalypse. It’s the streetlight blinking when you walk below it, a small owl calling from the bush beyond the fence. It’s that barometric lift of understanding when thoughts move like weather, like an emotion. It’s the feeling of extreme up-closeness that comes from finding out more, and then more again, about the person you love. The secret dimness of the backstage. The treasure at the core of the cave. It’s the feeling I had as a child reading The Borrowers, imagining the whole world in cross-sectioned miniature—that’s how I see the library—like a dollhouse, hinged open at its heart, tiny readers bent over tiny books. Being inside the library is like flying inside a cloud—shut off from the outside, riding out its knocks and bumps. Libraries feel magical, like mushrooms all connected underground, like hibernation, like glimpsing the glittering elbow of a gem poking out of dark rock. Libraries, like icebergs, balancing out the seen with the great unseen—all that knowledge tucked below the surface, keeping us all afloat. Libraries, like icebergs, disappearing.

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