>mastermind

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Hidden in the foreground is a row of four colored pegs. Shh, don’t say the colors out loud.
Tonight there was homemade pizza baking in the oven.
I was teaching my daughter how to cook and my son (the cook) was sweet about sitting on the other side of the kitchen, allowing me to teach and allowing his sister to learn without his intervention. (Are we the only two people who could use kitchen intervention?) 
We were both rather pleased with ourselves because as she prepared the dough, she noticed that at first it had the same appearance as the dough she’d seen me make for dumplings (as in: chicken and dumplings). But then *tadah* yeast kicked in and did what yeast does. She realized this was not something you’d want to have happen with dumpling dough. (Understand, we are not the cooks in the family and so our victory dances in the kitchen are based on very small gains.) (For further verification of this, I refer you to this post.)
The pups were so happy *the kids* were home to visit. Between each guess played on the board, someone stepped outside to fling a black tire off the deck. The dogs gave chase, and on the far end of this board, my two kids worked together to figure out my hidden color scheme.
I could only give them two hints. For each colored peg that they have in the right position, I can give them a “black point”. For each colored peg that is the right color, but in the wrong place I can give them a “white point”.
My kids are a little bit like their mom. Surely, there is a pattern to everything in life, right? A cause and effect, a reason for everything, right? As much as we know this is not true often enough in life, we still search for and at times, hold out for patterns with a logical sequence.
When you first glance at the four farthest rows of pegs in this photo, are you the sort to wonder what is going on? Or are you the sort that walks away, not at all curious? Are you the sort to realize a release in tension when you figure out the last peg that needs to be played out is red?
I grew up with a father and a massive set of Irish uncles, all of whom loved to set us twenty-nine or so kids on fire with some sort of riddle that I am now embarrassed to say often took me a few years to figure out.
Like this: As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven cats, each cat had seven bags, each bag had seven kittens. Wives, cats, bags, kits, how many were going to St. Ives?
We had to earn the answer on our own. I think I was in about fourth grade when I realized it was not a math question. Sheesh.
And this one . . . I would rather not say how old I was before I finally wrapped my mind around the answer: Railroad crossing watch out all cars, can you spell that without any R’s?   One of my brothers whispered the *yes* answer to me while we were travelling somewhere in the back of the pink family station wagon. It was not a satisfying experience. Being told the answer was not helpful. Knowing the answer is different than arriving at the answer. Arriving at the answer represents a fair amount of investment.
So I am sure I’m not telling you anything you’ve not arrived at on your own. Instead, let me turn this back to poetry and why I like a poem that insists I become a reader that must step into the poem and travel within the story the poem shares. I must arrive on my own. If the poem does the work for me and tells me the answer (what I should be feeling and why), then I’ve not invested any part of myself into the experience. 
Look back at the photo. At this moment, my daughter (yeah, that’s her finger posing in mid-thought) is working out the answer to the final colored peg. I would ruin it for her, wouldn’t I, if  I were to tell her “red”. Let her reach that conclusion on her own. If she does, she owns the experience, she owns the board.
If this had been a poem, she would be part of the poem and the poem would be part of her by now. I love that about poetry. A photo taken during the sixth attempt in Mastermind leads right into poetry. Railroad crossings without any cars – right back to poetry, once again. Men with too many wives. Seven Irish brothers with four bushels of kids. Pizza baking in the oven. Poetry: to and fro. 
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About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit and YB Poetry Journal. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

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