Poem: Slight of Hand

Sleight of Hand

It is just a brief moment in the museum.
Your eyes brush over the exhibit on the way
to the focal point, the exact place
the curators work so hard to direct your eyes towards
and you miss all the questions.

This, the signs say, is a printing press.
So then, what are the four spools of string doing there?
What is drying, hanging, golden and alone?
The two little bottles? What’s in them?
And the tin with blue top? What does it hold.
There’s a saw in the background. Why?
The spindles. The pully? What does it run?
Where does it spend its power?

Your eyes pass over.
The questions flicker like a candle
and disappear, your eyes landing just where the curator intended,
a perfect sleight of hand,
everything else, the whole of the story,
missed in plain sight.

About this poem

About exhibits. About art. About history. About the phenomenon of social media. About the people we meet and think we know.

The picture was taken at the NY Farmer’s Museum. It really is part of the printing press exhibit,



  1. I always leave museums wondering what I didn’t see! Or saw but dismissed to focus on something else. I typically take phone photos of anything that catches my eye, even briefly. Your post offers license to stop chiding myself for all those images!

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