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Poem-a-Day

Guidance

Guidance

 

The best guidance is given obliquely.
Today, trying to remember which screen
Belonged in which window, I noticed
Codes scrawled on the mildewed frames -
E4, N2, W3, corresponding to the sides
Of the house and numbered clockwise,

Each window a quarter hour.

Through those penciled coordinates

The man who sprayed the haze
Out of these screens in summers past
Was guiding me, but obliquely,
Like the farmer in that haiku of Issa's
Who, asked for directions, points
The way with a radish.

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The Plane

The Plane

 

At recess certain of us would walk by
The swing set and the slide, to the far side
Of the playground where a sort of mirror (call
It a plane) stood, reflecting whatever
Weather we were under, along with trees
That seemed to reach their leaves into its frame
Like soldiers straining to get their faces
Into the picture. The glare of it drew
Us to it too, along with the challenge
Of climbing it. See, it was pitched at such
An angle (I'd guess seventy degrees),
And made of such purchaseless stuff, that it
Was just hard enough to climb to keep us
Interested. You had to have dry hands
(but not too dry) and the right soles, and you
Had to really want to climb it, or else
It was impossible to get even
Halfway up. It helped if you ran at it,
Catching it at its slothful habit of
Gazing up at clouds, so that, by the time
It noticed you, you'd gotten high enough
To grab the bar that ran along the top,
Hanging there for a moment in triumph
Before sliding back down to earth, smearing
The fingerprints of the more tentative.
I think whoever designed it must have
Been acquainted with failure and wanted
To teach us perseverance. Instead, what
They taught us was that there are faces that
Prefer us cautious, that we must surprise.

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