"Carnegie Library Poetry" of Diane Woodward Dorff

(Posted 2017 March 7)

A Note to Mr. Carnegie

By Diane Woodward Dorff

SPECIAL NOTE: The Belleville Public Library building, funded by a 1913 grant of $45,000 from famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, opened to the public in Belleville, Illinois on 1916 January 20. MORE LIBRARY HISTORY
At the 1916 dedication of the Belleville Public Library, attendees were given note cards and asked to write thank you notes to Andrew Carnegie.
Although not alive in 1916, poet Diane Woodward Dorff now writes A Note to Mr. Carnegie.

Current view of Belleville (IL) Public Library, funded by Andrew Carnegie in 1913. Iíve traveled
like your trains,
speeding out from your brick laid library
carelessly following the tracks.
Hurtling myself
to a destination barely guessed;
rail after rail flying out behind me.

Before the beautiful libraries,
you were host to powerful locomotives,
burning wood, then coal,
and spewing cinders.

And then the libraries.
You laid buildings like tracks
around the nation.

Depots for curious minds.
Safe passage for the dreamers.

Thank you for the answers,
but more by far the questions,
your library gifted me.
Thank you for the kin I found,
companions of the stacks;
Americans who built the books,
who laid the tracks,
and stoked the engines.
Transportation to anywhere,
without a ticket.

Sandburg, Frost, and Emerson;
Dickinson and Whitman;
the station masters,
American conductors, travelers themselves.

And up above the libraries,
the stars shone as they shine now,
on the heads of the readers;
of the travelers of the mind;
who know no walls and no restrictions.
Though iron rails may rust,
the routes whose crossroad is the library
go on forever.