The Problem

This poem seems to resonate with the students in the School, capturing a bit of the challenge we all face, whether dealing with issues large or small.  Reference to it has come up a number of times since we read it, exemplifying how poetry helps provide language for grappling with life.

The Problem

By Taylor Mali

The guy in front of me trying to get into the subway
who is blocking my way into the subway
is not the problem.
He’s my problem,
but even I am not so self-centered as to think that my problem
is THE problem.
Besides, he’s trying to do what I’m trying to do:
get on the subway.
I recognize him as my brother in transit.
No, he’s not the problem.
Nor is the woman in front of him,
nor even the people in front of her.
None of us is the problem,
we few, we happy happy few,
we band of transit brothers.

But there’s a guy inside the subway
with nothing but empty space to his left.
You know who he is? He’s the problem.
I wish he would look at me and say
“What’s your problem?” so I could say
“Don’t you mean, who?”
All he would need to do is step aside
and we could all get on.
But does he realize this? Noooo.
Does he know he’s the problem? Noooo.
Do problems ever realize that they’re the problems?
That’s why they’re problems.

Which makes me think,
am I anybody’s problem?
Am I keeping anyone from getting somewhere?
Not out of calculatedly malicious intent
but unwittingly lazy complacency.
If I knew where to look, would I see someone pointing at me
angrily trying to get me to do something
that might not occur to me otherwise?

New life resolution:
try to be aware of the problem.
If you don’t know what it is, it’s probably you.
So step aside.

One Comment

  1. Dana Kluchinski says:

    every single day

    (After Raymond Carver’s Hummingbird)

    Suppose I said the word “springtime”
    and I wrote the words “king salmon”
    on a piece of paper
    and mailed it to you.
    When you opened it
    would you remember that afternoon we spent
    together in the yellow boat
    when the early whales were feeding
    and we caught our first fish of the year?

    Or would you remember that time off Cape Flattery
    when you were a little girl:
    your father smoking, telling stories as he ran the boat,
    then the tug and zing of that very first fish
    spooling off into the gray-green world;
    you laughing and brushing back your hair
    before setting the hook?

    I know I am hard to understand sometimes
    particularly when you are standing
    at the post office with only a piece of paper
    saying “king salmon” on it
    but just think of it as a promissary note
    and that electric tug, that thrill
    pulling your mind into deep water
    is how I feel about you every,
    single day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.