April, as many of you know, is Autism Awareness Month and also National Poetry Month. These are both subjects that I am passionate about. So last fall, Paul, the person in charge of adult programming at the Livermore Library, and I planned an autism awareness poetry event.
As the event approached, he emailed to inform me that the date we had selected, April 12th, fell during National Library Week. The current (aka “new”) library was dedicated in 2004, so it proceeded the City’s Poet Laureate Program by one year. He had enjoyed the poem I’d written for the “old” library when it was torn down. Would I consider writing another poem in honor of the “new” library?
I agreed, and never has a grown man (or anyone for that matter) been so excited about a poem that I had not yet written.
Paul began promoting the event as a celebration of National Poetry Month and National Library Week, completely forgetting about the original purpose, which was autism awareness. Even I did not know how to promote the event. How could I tie these seemingly disparate themes together?
I came up with the name Audacious April, which I loved, but still I struggled to link the three themes. One night on the phone, as I rambled on about my dilemma, Christopher suggested that I consider writing a poem about autism and libraries. Did I ever take Katie to the library?
Yes, I had when she was younger, many times in fact, but it hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped. I could feel an idea brewing….
And here it is.
ONCE AGAIN, WE VISIT THE LIBRARY
Despite multiple trips, you cannot fathom a library’s purpose.
How to explain how this differs from a bookstore or that
coffeeshop we love with the crayons and overflowing shelves?
More importantly, how do I convey what this place means—
to me, your mother—with its wealth of knowledge and mythology?
As always, you abandon the cross-legged children, gravitate toward
a video kiosk. I long to tell you about the card catalog, with its
narrow wooden drawers, yellowed files, and Dewey Decimal System.
I’d clutch a stubby pencil and transcribe orderly numbers and letters.
It’s all gone.
No manila pockets with strings of multi-colored dates, a strange
calculus of popularity and history. No encyclopedias with glossy photos.
No thesaurus with its tiny tabs. You will never make small talk beneath
macrame plant hangers as the librarian manually checks out your books
or know a world without bar codes and databases. I’m okay with that.
But what if you never learn the importance of ideas, of books,
of self-expression and shared thoughts? What if you never
understand the joy I feel when writing? Or cannot read?
A library is a place of language and words;
yet you think in pictures, music, and colors.
Each of us an immigrant in the others’ native land.
I think I have solved my problem. Or at least one problem. I still need to write that library poem….
Am I the only one that misses the card catalog?
Until next time,