Where the first one came from,
we’ll never know, but once it landed,
it did what arrows do—it pointed.
The headlines read New Shape Discovered:
Arrow Invents the Straight and Narrow.
Children who had been content to trail
snails around the patio suddenly made
a gesture we’d never seen before—
holding one arm out in front of their chests
then curling in all but the longest finger.
They wanted to go to the playground
and slide down the slide with determined
smiles. They pointed at the girl with a blotch
of tomato soup on her shirt, the ape with alopecia,
and laughed with an unfriendly new note
in their laughter. Arrows led to purchases.
Arrows led to adieus. A simple shape
had turned us all from cars into ambulances,
keening with intent. The weatherman no longer
ambled aimlessly around our T.V. screen.
When he pointed at Chicago then Boston,
the people sitting on sofas in those cities
suddenly felt how very different from one another
they were. Dogs pulled at their leashes,
sparrows vectored through trees, knitters turned
to welding. Though there was no denying that
the “this way up” signs on parcels meant that
more vases arrived at their destinations intact,
the new words that mushroomed into being
were problematic—initiative, tomorrow, your fault,
mine. Couples sat in restaurants launching them
back and forth over the bread basket.
Soon we’d invent bows, cannons, guns.