coffee stains on old desks

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John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library–colloquially known as the Rock, or even more colloquially–seen as an amalgamation of discarded poetry written into ancient desks. The largest and most intricate, living, breathing piece of literature on campus. I walk in and immediately make my way to the bottom floor, walking around the bookshelves clockwise. Chin down, I ignore the questioning looks from the students with their heads buried in textbooks as I walk over to each individual desk and read.

 

i’m exhausted

take me home

 

i still miss you

no matter what i said

 

And in a faded green, it continues:

 

i love you as certain dark things are loved

secretly between the shadow and the soul

 

i love you as the plant that does not bloom

 

Two more steps, and I brush the hair out of my face as I lean down.

 

coffee stains on old desks

 

lonely as i’ve ever been

 

quick as a flame to spark

in an instant unobserved

the wild world went dark

 

(and beneath it, written to break the fleeting memories the holders of these ballpoint pens tried to preserve: have you like, heard of the observer effect bro?)

 

sentience is suffering

 

And

 

call eloquence alone

 

i said, i never wanna catch up

to the letting go

 

We take a regularly scheduled break for humor, from a chain of

i love hot tamales

 

i love hot pockets

 

i love hot boys

 

To

 

#white boys stop wearing sperrys 2003

 

Timeless. I move up a floor.

 

CHAOS REIGNS

 

cruelty reigns

 

I’m going to Peru, soul between my teeth.

 

Scribbled in languages I don’t even speak.

 

ich bin allein (I’m alone)

 

Sprachen Sie bitte (Please speak)

 

l’enfer c’est les autres (Hell is other people)

 

ningun ser humano es ilegal (No human is illegal)

 

Hie Tiburtina iacet aurea Cynthia terra (A Latin Epigraphy)

 

Hillary Rodham 2006 written in Japanese– a prophet, perhaps? A decade old.

 

Poetry redefines itself, from the old to the new.

 

the reminiscence comes of sunless dry geraniums

 

(Followed by the lyrics to Mask Off, a stark contrast to be seen on the same desk)

 

with no grave but the streets

we dwell on western gloom

the days pass, careless, crass

like blood from selfish wounds

I move up through the elevator, up the higher floors. The lighting changes, less claustrophobic in the way the sunlight opens up the room.

snow drifts lazily

settling on the barren tree

outside giving new life

to december’s light

(It will be, come winter. Right now, wind replaces snow, tearing through the autumn leaves.)

scream free

God is dead

i think last night i finally said goodbye to you in my dreams

but she built the ship to wreck.

You’d think the library is just a collection of books the building surrounds, but it’s more than that. The minds at work inside, humming with energy to speak in a place where you remain silent. But the words that aren’t spoken are commemorated forever in their tombs an anthology of the woes of college students (and perhaps professors) as they fall over the edge of restraining their impulses. Impulses to create the spontaneous street art found within the Rock.

 

Desperation and humor often come hand in hand– we aren’t creatures dichotomous enough to choose one over the other, and the most beautiful book in the library proves that. A collection written by students of all ages, from all times, from all over the world.

 

coffee stains on old desks

All we are remembered by; the excess of a mind at work.

coffee stains on old desks

 

The energy we use to keep us going through our years here, the dedication that creates the future of the world. A little piece of us can remain here forever, anonymous yet critical. And perhaps if you look hard enough, you can find my own contribution, tucked away on an unknown floor, the smallest piece of self I can give. The Rock becomes unlike its name– no stability in its change, an ever-forming piece of artwork.

 

Photographs by Minji Koo

Edited by Kahini Mehta




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