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Carnegie Library

By John I. Blair

A lifetime ago, when I was seven,
I got to go downtown by myself
To the gray Carnegie library.
After half an hour on a smelly bus
I trudged two blocks past City Hall,
Trod granite steps, then tiptoed under
A fearsome limestone lionís head
Through a coffered arch and worn wood doors
Onto cool and shiny marble floors
Where the smell of books and lemon polish
Told me heaven was near at hand.

At seven Iíd climb to the second story,
Pass shirt-sleeved men in a reading room,
Then into the sun-splashed childrenís section
Where row on row of oaken shelves
Were packed with volumes, small and large.
Doctor Doolittle, The Brothers Grimm,
Robinson Crusoe, Freddy the Pig,
And a host of others were there for the taking.
And the kind librarians always made me
A guest of honor if I followed the rules.
I felt I was welcome, respected, big.

In later years, as I grew older,
Taller, stronger, greedier, bolder,
I turned my attention to the adult collection,
Browsing my way down aisle after aisle:
Moby Dick and Sister Carrie,
Talbot Mundy and Sherlock Holmes,
Robert Heinlein, Mika Waltari,
Shelley and Keats and Tennyson.
But I would never find again
That sense of excitement and mystery
When first I tiptoed under the lion.

©2003 John I. Blair

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