Smiling and Looking Back

A student gave a photo, time and
time again, to the master,
who shoved it toward the reject pile.

“Why turn that photo in?” asked the
octogenarian. “Art’s not determined
by the effort expended in its making.”

But what good are words,
if they debar us of hope, offering
lessons sown not in peace nor
watered with love? Tom climbed a
mountain to get that shot,

labored all night long and well into
morning, not knowing what
the master who hated the picture knew.

“I’ve seen a duck become a swan!” he said,
ably dipping his print in a pan of toner,
mixed from the potent concentrate
in the brown glass bottle.

The stain of a teardrop is just above the bed—
the plaster yellowed chemically—
where the photo hung on the lonely wall,
not yet dry.

So the truth is out:
And this tale will pass from age to youth
like a joke that isn’t funny,
known for its keen didactic worth.

first published in Scorched Earth