A Poem

By Faith Walessa

Once crowded, now rusted, the little library,
They boarded its windows with face-paint regret.
It was tragic, they said, but of course necessary:
Only what’s Useful can live when a city’s in debt.

With a book, there’s a trick–not to burn it or ban it,
Lest you make dangerous martyrs of criminal papers–
But to recycle them, nobly, (for the health of the planet)
Into dust and confusion and cigarette wrappers.

It’s civilized death by this sanitized sanity when
What is Useful becomes only what can be used,
But they’re certain that this must be how it began
Since only the present can ever be known to be true.

Who could reopen a library on such a street–
Where people with less they could know can’t but think they know more?
It’s cruelly efficient: with “Closed” signs unnecessary,
A glimmering “Open” now mocks its own library door.


Faith Walessa is a rising senior from Ontario, Canada. She hopes to study English at Hillsdale College, write books, and someday travel to England. She loves fanciful poetry, theater, reading by flashlight, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

If you enjoyed this piece, you might like some installments in our Great Conversation series—we have posts on art, the emotions it tends to express and evoke, the role of the specific art of poetry in education, the intersection of romantic imagination with the virtue of wisdom, and even a crash course in the nature and history of symbolism. Or, if you prefer to listen to your great conversations, you can check out Anchored, the official podcast of the Classic Learning Test. Thanks for reading.

Published on 6th December, 2023.

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