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When she was four or five years old
she had played in the yard where her Papa
was building a new set of steps.
The little bubble in his carpenter's level
amused her and she played with the level
turning it this way and that
making the bubble stand between the lines.

And when her Papa finished the steps
and couldn't find his level, he accused
her of carrying it off somewhere, wouldn't
believe her denials, and switched her
legs and ankles with a willow.

They never found the level.

Thirty-five years later when her Papa
tore away the old front porch
there lay the level--and her vindication.
The level lay on a slant, the bubble far
to one side of the glass. The old man
picked it up and held it so
the bubble stood between the two black lines,
then sent his daughter word he'd found his level,
said he was sorry he'd ever switched her for losing it.

When the Brier was misunderstood, falsely
accused, he remembered his mother's story,
remembered the level lying under the steps
for thirty-five years--and gathered patience
to live his life at a tilt,
alone with a little truth.

Either he, or someone else, would eventually pull
away the ignorance, the misunderstanding,
like lifting rotten boards with a crowbar,
and let the light of day in on the truth.
Someone would send word. Or, failing that,

his coffin would ride level between two stones.

from Brier, His Book, 1988 ©

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