The Way Things Look

By Kenneth Hart

Featured Image: Pity the Sorrows of a Poor Old Man! by Jean Louis André Théodore Géricault

Some things are easier than they look
and some things are harder than they look.
Riding a bike, for example, is easier than it looks,
unless you are five and your feet don’t reach the pedals.
Playing guitar is harder than it looks, as is milking a cow.
Fall down when you are skiing,
forget someone’s phone number, be used by others as a bad example—
failing is easier than it looks.
Certainly some things are just as easy as they look: pouring milk into a glass.
And things you may not think are as easy as they look
turn out to be just as easy as they look:
deciphering why the bedsprings are squeaking
in the hotel room next to yours;
assuming the governor is lying about his affair.
(Assuming is as easy as it looks).
Once you get the hang of things they may become easier than they look,
though soon enough things get wise to how they look,
and they do things to make them harder than they look.
The entrance to sorrow is easier than it looks;
the exit is harder than it looks.
Reverse that for joy.
Telling a worker to turn off his jackhammer
when you are trying to read is easier than it looks,
though getting him to stop, that’s going to be harder than it looks.
That’s when you may decide it isn’t worth keeping up
with how easy something looks, or it may cause you to work harder
to make a thing as easy as it looks.
Living a life where things are harder then they look,
easier than they look, and equal to how they look  
is easier than it looks.
You do it every day.
You just were not aware of it.
But awareness, you don’t need me to tell you,
is harder than it looks.


Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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