Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dario: Dance on, bear

Alberto Perera, librarian, granted no credibility to police profiles of dangerous persons. Writers, down through the centuries, had that look of being up to no good and were often mistaken for assassins, smugglers, fugitives from justice--criminals of all sorts. But the young man invading his sanctum, hands hidden in the pockets of his badly soiled green parka, could possibly be another lunatic out to kill another librarian. Up in Sacramento, two libraraians were shot dead while on duty and, down in Los Angeles, the main library was sent up in flames by an arsonist. Perera loved life and wished to participate in it further.

"You got a minute?"

"I do not."

"Can I read you something?"

"Please don't." Recalling some emergency advice as to how to dissuade a man from a violent deed--Engage him in conversation--he said, "Go ahead," regretting his permission even as he gave it. Was he to hear, as the last words he'd ever hear, a denunciation of all librarians for their heinous liberalism, a damnation for all the lies, the deceptions, the swindles, the sins preserved within the thousands of books they so zealously guarded, even with their lives?

With bafflement in his grainy voice, the fellow read from a scrap of paper.

Greet the sun, spider. Show no rancor.
Give God your thanks, O toad; that you exist.
The crab has such thorns as the rose.
In the mollusc are reminiscences of women.
Know what you are, enigmas in forms.
Leave the responsibility to the norms,
Which they in turn leave to the Almighty's care.
Chirp on, cricket, to the moonlight. Dance on, bear.

--Gina Berriault, "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?," In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians

I loved this story. Anyone familar with Berriault? Or the poet Dario?

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