. The fire roars and spits within the square Blazing angry red. The rabble looks With savage joy; their whooping lards the air. Such glee to see the burning of the books! One man stands apart from the hot flame, His eyes averted, grimly cloaked in shade. Aldous Senex is the old one’s name--- The former state librarian by trade. Senex is far older than he seems And this is not the first mob that he’s faced; For history is fraught with pious screams That certain texts deserve to be erased. Senex keeps a vault beneath his home Secret and concealed from other men. Here he safeguards many an old tome Until they’re safe to see the light again. A Bible story stirred the old man’s scheme, His hidden shelves recalling Noah’s Ark. A world where books aren’t threatened is his dream; For even unkind words can light the spark Of scholarship and nuance and debate. Senex has saved books throughout the ages. In Alexandria he saved the weight Of epic works by Greek and Roman sages. When jihad came he rescued Christian scrolls; And Torahs from Inquisitors of Spain; When French insurgents tossed books onto coals, Senex rescued them from Terror’s Reign. Soon the Bolsheviks and Nazis came, And China’s war on all things from the West. Senex saw that all books burn the same For everyone has something they detest. His chamber hides the authors some want banned. Flaubert and Lawrence, Twain and Morrison, Margaret Mitchell, Rowling and Ayn Rand--- Redeemed due to the burn scars on his skin. Safe in his Ark: the wisdom of the ages; Man’s foolishness as well, for in his view Our history is not just writ by sages. All books help reveal what’s false and true. The old man turns to face the shouting mob. He’s had enough. He’ll risk his very life. As Man’s librarian it’s now his job To save the past sans fear of death or strife. Aldous Senex rage etched on his brow, Cries out with all the courage he can give: “Stop the fire! End the madness now! For every single book deserves to live!” He stands revealed. The rabble turns on him As rioters inevitably do. Does he survive? And do the fires dim? The story’s end, my friends, is up to you. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.