Saturday, February 12, 2011
On the way to work today,
I passed the same old man
tugging at the same old shaggy mule,
only today, a small knot of watchers
puffed in the February air.
The crust of snow still hugged the pond
and the mud was frozen hard,
except for where the mule moved forth and back
like some clumsy dancer learning his steps.
The old man tugged and tugged,
then got behind to push.
The watchers swiveled hatted heads
like spectators at a game:
Front, then back, then front again,
but the creature held his place;
only the old man moved.
From my car, I watched the watchers
turn to one another in disgust
as if they had bet on the old man to win.
I wonder, what was the point of all this fuss?
Yesterday it was the same, and so the day before.
For days, the mule has stood his frozen ground,
the old man has tugged and pushed,
and I have gawked in my slowing car
as I pass on my way to school.
Today, a knot of men stamped the ground
and blew on frozen hands and watched.
What is it they had come to see --
the man, the mule, or the match?
Tomorrow, will the masses grow?
Will the mayor come along?
Will he bring a marching band?
Will reporters flood the field with artificial light?
On the news, will the old man spit and chew
and, toothless, talk about the "dangedest
stubborn mule he ever seen" ?
Will the watchers place their bets,
and will I pass on by --
or tomorrow, will I stop?
Will I join the frosty group
as we stamp our frozen feet
and stubbornly resist the ropes
that tug us daily in an inexorable attempt
to move us from the frozen mud?