proportion has been around
since the fourth century B.C.
says Mrs. Baedeker.
So far, we’re mostly alert, here
in the Lenox Hotel’s Dome Room,
illuminated more for waltzing
than for learning layout.
Blue light rims the circular ceiling
like some big gas range burner turned low.
In this difficult gloom everyone jots notes
in the back of the yellow course manual—
except the inevitable pair of young nuns
who take dictation in their own
The essence of graphics
is a clear message pleasing to the eye:
ideas through art.
We ponder where to place
the block of text, the pull quote,
the photograph, the cutline,
the copyrighted illustration.
We strain to arrange,
as we have been arranged,
punctuating these extended tables.
Mrs. Baedeker asks,
What gives a person an idea?
You, representatives of the Coast Guard
and Harness Horsemen International!
You, from Stop & Shop, with the Greek accent!
You, the gent named Diamond
from Pilgrim Plastic Products!
If you knew this: in no time
some microprocessor, some software,
will make obsolete your X-Acto knives,
t-squares, rubylith, adhesive—
obliterating all these tools and lessons, all
except a few principles, observations,
as, where one’s gaze lands upon a page,
(as long as pages may endure)—
would you then excuse yourself, leap out
of the hotel restroom window
wide open to warm radiance
and run down the city street muddled
with the random yeast of spring?
This poem appears in a slightly different form in the collection “Like the O in Hope”, The Poetry Box, 2019.