How Far? How Long?

by Kathleen C. Phillips

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    How far is an inch?

    How long is a minute?

    You can measure them out

    with a yardstick

    or clock.

    You can measure an hour

    and a city block

    and the time it takes

    to stop and talk.

    Yardsticks and clocks

    are the usual way,

    but it’s how I feel

    that measures

    a day


    an hour


    a block.

    How far is a block?


    it’s just from here to the corner.

    An inch is quite long

    to something quite small.

    Sometimes a minute

    is nothing at all.

    An hour’s forever

    when I watch the clock,

    but it seems

    like a minute

    when I stop to talk

    at each of the shops

    along the block—

    the block that’s from

    here to the corner.

    How long is a minute?

    It’s nothing at all

    when I am out playing

    and hear Mother call.

    I say,

    “In a minute—”

    Then Mother says,


    But the time gets mixed up, and I don’t see how.

    I say,

    “Just a minute—”

    and Mother says,


    That minute was over five minutes ago!”

    But if I am waiting to go to a show,

    a grown-up’s minute




    How far is an inch?

    I know on a ruler

    it’s just that far.

    But it seems to change

    with the size you are.

    It would be several steps

    for an ant or a fly,

    or just one hop

    for a bird going by.

    An inch-step for me

    would be nothing at all,

    because to a bird

    or an ant

    I am tall!

    I guess it’d have thousands

    of inches to walk

    if an ant

    went clear to the end of the block.

    How far is an inch?

    One single inch?

    One little inch?

    I know on a ruler it’s not very much,

    but it’s quite a long way for bugs and such.

    With empty time and nothing to do,

    an hour

    and a day

    are never through.

    But when I’m busy,

    they go by

    as quickly

    as any plane can fly.

    How long

    is an hour?

    a day?

    a minute?

    It all depends

    on just what’s in it!

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch