Lee Sharkey

What the news won’t tell

—for Sacita Israileva
How when the general of the occupying army determined to kill the city he began by visiting the public
He climbed the broad stone steps, pulled the heavy library door open, breathed the distilled library air
just like a reader
walked quietly up to the front desk, asked a few questions about the collection, and suggested somewhat
intimately that Given the situation, it would be best that the library close for a while
What the news won’t tell
is how in the chill of his departure the head librarian called the staff together
how they decided to go on threading their way through the dangerous streets and up the exposed steps
to the library door so people could keep on reading
how each day each of them summoned the courage to cross her threshold
how even after the demolitions began, even on the day the invaders assassinated one of them and they
cried out her name and fell into each other’s arms in the diluted light through the library windows
they determined to continue
how in the evenings the head librarian made the rounds of her neighbors’ houses, collecting books to
bring to the relative safety of the library building to keep the people’s memory alive
how when the aerial bombardment began in earnest they formed brigades to ferry books to the shelter
of the basement
how the head librarian held Garcia Lorca in her arms and he sang to her, and Anna Akhmatova leveled
her gaze and emboldened her as the invaders destroyed 10 million books
whatever their bombs could touch

Lee Sharkey
“What the news won’t tell” first appeared in English Journal, Vol. 98 No. 1.