Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, in a 1960 essay called “Mutations,”

In a hallway I saw a sign with an arrow pointing the way, and I was struck by the thought that that inoffensive symbol had once been a thing of iron, an inexorable, mortal projectile that had penetrated the flesh of men and lions and clouded the sun of Thermopylae and bequeathed to Harald Sigurdson, for all time, six feet of English earth.

This line came to mind when, a few years ago, I had to write a poem for a poetry workshop class. Looking back, it was the easiest course credit I ever got.


Who are you, little faceless man?
You stand sentinel over phones,
Restrooms and weary travelers.
Just yesterday, after lunchtime,
I saw you crushed beneath a vending machine.

Who are you, little faceless man?
I have to lean close to see you now.
It helps when you are yellow,
A shade that penetrates my imperfect darkness.

Do you feel alone, little faceless man?
I saw a nightclub advertisement
With two yellow faceless women, holding hands.

Please don’t feel alone, little faceless man.
Everyone I know needs your help.

Who are you, little faceless man?