One Idea May Hide Another

NPR reported this week on the death of Kenneth Koch, a founder of the New York School of poetry. They replayed part of a Jim Lehrer interview with Koch, in which Koch explained a poem of his titled “One Train May Hide Another“, a reference to a sign in the Kenyan desert that puzzled him. (Listen to the NPR piece for a complete explanation.) I’m not much of a poetry connoisseur, but the poem really struck me. It focuses on the situations in which something more obvious obscures something more significant.

For me, it’s the line ‘one idea may hide another’ that simply rings true. The conclusion to the poem is elegant and powerful – I’m certain this will stay with me for life:

Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It
     can be important
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

I’m sorry I didn’t know of or appreciate the works of Kenneth Koch while he was alive. But I’m thankful to have found the poem. R.I.P., Kenneth.

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