Meter Reader: A Poem by David Rogers

I assumed the readers—
gas, water, electric—
must tire of the endless digits
that roll, relentless,
on the axes of gallons and kilowatts.
So I began to leave
little messages on the meters,
fortune-cookie-sized sayings
on scraps of paper, sticky-
note-scaled observations
to relieve the tedium.
At first I stuck with the classics—
Your diligence will be rewarded
or Thanks for reading—see you
next time. But then I graduated
to more abstract conundrums:
If a meter turns in the forest
and no one’s there to read it
does the turning still incur a charge?
Once I left the Emily Dickinson poem
Because I could not stop for death . . .,
thinking that to one who spent
his or her whole life
making stops, the idea
might have special significance.
I put the messages
in little Valentine-sized envelopes
labeled Read me or Take me home, please
or Important news about your destiny.
No doubt the readers, like Alice,
felt at first a little puzzled
but also intrigued enough
to follow directions
left by a total stranger.
Kind of like you, dear reader,
who have been thinking
what I told you to think about
the whole time you’ve been reading
this poem. But if
your head begins to swell
or your neck lengthens
or you shrink
to walk through tiny doors
it is none of my doing.
Have a nice day, and beware
of messages left by strangers.

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