My angst about my education has been around since high school, I recently (re)discovered.
A few months ago, while cleaning up my still cluttered spaces at home, I found a small collection of poetry I wrote when I was in high school. I must have been around 15 or 16 years old when I penned The Library, a poem that seems to have haunted me into adulthood.
When I was about seven or eight years old, my school ran a huge project for us where the students built their own library. I remember the whole fuss and ceremony of it and the volumes upon volumes of books parents brought in to create a small reading space for their children there. I remember my own mother taking part in this, and I remember going to the school’s office to borrow my first book from our principal. To my dismay, it was the second book in the Left Behind series. I suppose I was attracted by the blue lightning on the black cover. I returned it when the story just didn’t make sense to me, having missed an entire book’s worth of content.
I think that was the only book I was able to get from the library. It was only opened for a few more weeks, perhaps to the end of the semester, before it closed its doors permanently. The only other time I was able to even see into the library was during my first year of high school when my geography teacher needed some space to store materials for one of our class projects. I had completely forgotten that the library even existed until, there it was: rows on rows of neatly stacked, dusty books that were rarely, if ever, handled by the children who put them there.
I remember several students, myself included, asking about regaining access to that library but never getting a satisfying answer. It upset me then because even back then, teachers were complaining about us not reading enough or about our sliding grades. But there was a source of knowledge that we could tap into to change our situation, but we couldn’t access it.
Since then, and especially now that I’m in university, I have been increasingly bothered by the pockets of information that seem out of my reach, especially as I realise just how much I do not know about my own country, its history and its legacy. In this regard, my access to information is not necessarily hidden, but I often think of the children who came in after that library was created, who have no idea that it even existed. We who knew of its existence could have demanded access, but we didn’t, and neither did our parents (as far as I know), while those who knew nothing about it would have never even known what to ask for.
I suppose in some ways, what happened with my primary school library represents – at least in part – a bigger picture of Guyana and our access to our literature and stories. We can create spaces for our literary endeavours and preservation, but if those who know about it don’t fight to maintain it and raise awareness about it, those doors will close and remain so until they are given another, sometimes unrelated, purpose.
And so, with the backstory covered, I give you one of my first literary attempts: The Library.
The Library by Nikita Blair (circa 2010)
The library looks down at us –
Silently mocking us as we eat lunch.
It lurks behind closed curtains
That lay being closed windows.
No wind has touched that room in years
And the air, I am sure,
Is heavy with the smell of mould, mildew and plages long neglected
that the rats have made their nets with.
We could have used this library.
We made it, after all;
Donated books and supplies to it,
But they lock the door
To this place of knowledge
And forbid us to go in.
Now what sense does it make
To lock library doors shut on students
Desperate for knowledge?
But I excuse them as
So lost in their self-righteousness
And ludicrous thoughts
Do not think,
And only criticize
When we fail.