by Bryan Daniel

(“Directions” mobile version)

People stop and ask me for directions
Regardless of where I am.
In Venice two days once,
For the first time in my life,
A couple from Australia,
Map in hand,
Stopped me and asked,
“Hey mate, do you know how to get
To St. Mark’s Square?”
And of course I did.

Later, clerking for a law firm, I
Told that story to one of the partners.
He said it was because I looked like I knew
Where I was going.
A now ex-girlfriend told me something similar once,
Like confidence lived in the center of my chest.

Sometimes I wish people knew what a thin thing that is.

In the Army, one of the first things they teach you is how to
Stand at Attention:
Head up, shoulders back, chest out, feet together, eyes forward.
They teach that first because standing at attention is frequent:
You spend hours, days even, looking forward,
Completely silent, thinking about nothing but the overwhelming
Chaos of life.
Eventually, you learn how to pay attention to the order surrounding you.
Eventually, you learn how to make a small amount of order for yourself,
And the drill sergeant within allows you to put down that weight,
If only for a little while.

Afterwards, you walk through civilian life at a
Relaxed form of attention.
The chaos is still there, but it’s easier to filter
The relevant from the irrelevant.

But even that is still a very thin thing,
Like the difference between having a map,
And knowing how to read one.