by Chase Burke

Library

Where was the first library? So-called culture-at-large suggests Greece, or at least I want to say Greece. Alexandria, I think. The Great Library. The first of something need not be great, or, better said, the best of something need not be first, but here we are. It’s in the history books. It’s been written. I think the greatest library is probably in a small town in Indiana, or somewhere equally empty on a map. The greatest library is likely unfinished, unstarted, undone. Nothing yet catalogued, knowledge not yet organized. What is institutional memory? A library, I think. Here I am in one off the beaten path in Florida, the smallest library I’ve ever been to—a shed out back of someone’s house in the woods off a dirt road in Newberry, Mayberry’s less photogenic cousin. My grandfather lived off a dirt road out here. He died before I was born, but the house is still there. I didn’t learn about him in a library, though I’m told libraries have genealogical rolodexes—the institutional memory of towns—containing this kind of information. What is the institutional memory of a family? I would ask my brother but I haven’t spoken to him since I left the big college down the road. I’d ask my mother but I don’t remember having one. Fathers give us the colors we wear into the world. Mine were bright, once. Where, I wonder, did you go to school? Where did you grow up? Did you leave, too? I am not out of line to ask after your alma mater. It’s the colors that make a man and I am after all these years still being made.


Chase Burke calls Florida home. A former Fiction Editor of the Black Warrior Review, his fiction appears or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, DIAGRAM, Salt Hill, Sycamore Review, The Offing, and Electric Literature, among other venues.

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