by | Dec 15, 2023 | Poetry

Blue and tan pencil shavings in a close pile.

From the Yaghan, a word that denotes a look two people share, both wanting to initiate
something, but neither of them starting.

The right words, my teacher explains
_____come after you’ve written
_________the wrong ones. Perhaps this is why

I have no name for the sunlight
_____that spills like orange juice
_________across the classroom floor

or for the strange prickle I feel
_____when Marie walks to the sharpener
__________to whittle her graphite to a point

she can make in this in-class writing
_____assignment, to tell a story
__________about what we want to be

when we are grown, after these years
_____of school. Then, my options
__________limited to super spy or mill worker,

my father or a version of him,
_____moving between the dark shadows
__________of a world of single wides on limestone

streets, where passwords and checkpoints
_____were Doral cigarettes and a tip-back
__________of the head that meant, “What’s up?”

Now, Marie has passed me again
_____but not dropped a note or hint
__________that she’s seen my long gazes

or felt my certainty that one day,
_____she will look back at this moment
__________and know it was now—here,

in this place of knowledge,
_____she found in me a glossary of escape.
__________Her father the foreman. My father

the drunk. We are meant to be.
_____Seventh grade swells like a pimple
__________until we all burst out, infected

with dreams and certainties,
_____until we can all sharpen our pencils
__________to write the futures teachers

think an Oxford outline defines.
_____I take up my own Number Two
__________Berol Mirado and hover above

the blue-lined paper, imagine
_____words appearing like heat on invisible
__________ink, the message that would appear,

the secret of escape from here.
_____Someone throws a wad of paper
__________and Marie is looking away, the guilt

I seek on torn edge of her paper.
_____The way she does not look at me
__________is a clear sign all this is meant to be.

Photo by Roonz nl, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author


Jeff Newberry‘s most recent book is How to Talk About the Dead (Red Hawk Publications) Find Jeff on Threads at jeffnewberry.