A Jewel in the Stacks

I went to Syracuse University’s Bird Library to pick up two novels I hope to read over the summer: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and The Killing Man by Mickey Spillane. But as is often the case when I am roaming through the aisles on the fifth floor of the library, another book caught my attention. It’s a slim volume of poetry titled Broken Lights: A Book of Verse by Glenn Hughes, published in 1920. I pulled the rust-colored book off the shelf and flipped it open randomly, stopping on page 68, where I found the poem Dakota Night. As I read the poem, the words stirred my imagination, making me feel like I was standing in a knee-high field of grass surrounded by a bowl of stars.


Was ever such a night for stars
Above this silent prairie land,
Where lonely years have left their scars
In rocky buttes that darkly stand
Against the liquid film of night
So richly flecked with golden light!

There is a peace here, native, strong,
That lies upon this rolling waste
As though the gods had labored long
And, wearying, had turned to taste
The joy of dreamless sleep.  No breath
Is heard.  It is a peace like death.

Yet hark!  A murmur on the hill!
The wind among the grasses wakes;
A cricket strums and then is still.
How sweet the music that night makes!
Starlight and quiet once again
On lonely butte and barren plain.

(Hughes, Glenn. Broken Lights: A Book of Verse. Seattle: Department of Printing, University of Washington, 1920. Print.)

I found an online story about Glenn Hughes, or at least I believe it’s the same Glenn Hughes who penned Broken Lights.

And this incident proves why books on paper will always possess more allure to me than e-books. Bound volumes hold tactile power; the way they look, feel and smell invite the reader to explore the space sandwiched between the front and back covers. My literary find also makes me wonder how many other interesting books are just waiting to be discovered on the library stacks.

You can read Broken Lights online for free.