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Have you heard the story, of a time before the fear?
Before the acrid smell that lingers here?
A time when things were sweeter; when this city wasn’t lost?
Before we learned and understood the cost?

Imagine then - this city, once proud upon the plain,
sparkling in its wealth of sun and rain.
Amongst the spices and rare silks, drawing dark and doubtful looks,
a beggar woman with a dozen dusty books.

“Here’s the sum of all the knowledge; all the wisdom of the world," (she says),
"And it is yours for a single sack of gold.”
“Is that wisdom in your books?”(we say), “Then gold’s not quite the price.
No, we’ll not pay a single grain of rice.”

She knows that we’re not buying; we’d rather have her go.
She takes her leave, but not without a show.
She bends and builds a fire - sets half the books ablaze,
and when they’re ash, takes the other six away.

Winter comes in hard, and though we are well prepared,
we bless the day that spring subdues the pain.
Then on the city walls, a lookout gives a call - the old woman approaching on the plain.

In the busy marketplace, book-bound, but unbowed,
the beggar woman challenges the crowd.
“Half of all the knowledge; half the wisdom of the world." (she says),
"But mark the cost - now two full sacks of gold.”

“Half the books for twice the price?" (we say), "You really are a fool!
This is a buyer’s market after all.”
She looks so sad but still sets five of the books ablaze,
and with the last she leaves across the plain.

Winter is much harder and we are not prepared
for the famine and the freezing to the bone.
Now beaten with fatigue; at last the cold recedes; at last one hope; at last the ancient crone.

“One twelfth of all the knowledge and the wisdom of the world,
and it is yours for sixteen sacks of gold.”
But at last we make the deal; every scrap of gold the cost.
We could not bear the one last book be lost.

I heard another story...
A singing fish that breathed the air.
But when they looked again it wasn’t there.
I hope they saved a picture
We’ll never hear the sound
We’ll just smell the burning embers on the ground.