Arrive early, before the museum is full of tourists.
The light casts drama on the implements,
on the tools of simple trades
when work was hard, but without complication,
reminders of how you once saw the world.
You need those reminders.
Growing old has taught you the complexities
of ripples upon ripples,
of sharp-toothed animals under the floors,
and brokenness that pervades each of us,
surely as breath.
It is one of your greatest flaws.
That is what the learned doctors who probe your mind
tell you again and again.
You believe what you see, what you hear.
Like a child you believe.
You feel foolish, that at your age,
sixty-two years come and gone, you are only now learning
that few things are as they seem,
that life has layers, each coloring the other,
that emotions and truth are not the same thing,
even when they are.
You liked your innocence better.
It was easier, quicker, safer
until it’s falseness swallowed you alive
and left you for dead at the side of the road,
Today, you are slower.
Even here in the Shaker museum piece,
you look twice and abandon the image you see
of beautiful simplicity.
Now, you see the sweat. The hard work,
the broken hearts that came to this place in search of sanctuary,
in search of God,
the layers of relationship and passion and agony
of lost lives looking for nothing more than simple peace,
rarer than gold
and twice as valuable.
About this poem
I turn 63 in a month. At times, I wish I were younger. Things were simpler. Only they weren’t. I was just blinder.
The picture was taken at the Hancock Shaker Museum near Pittsfield, Mass. It is the washroom.