I have always wanted to work in a pencil factory
like Henry David Thoreau.
I could draw inspiration from my work each day,
pencil in appointments with imaginary friends
during coffee breaks or smokos.
Do they still have smokos by the way?
‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ but what about
the pencil? & which one?
2B or not 2B? Hamlet famously dithered just after
he had asked Ophelia [ in an earlier draft of the play ]
to come and look at his etchings and she had refused.
I may not be the sharpest pencil in the box but I still
want to make my mark upon the world.
* can you think of other lines for this poem?
* have you ever written an object poem? The opening lines are so important; would you like to share a few lines — or the whole poem — with us here?
- pic courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I think of fragile Dennis when someone needles me,
and toughen up.
He let the jibes get to him;
He closed down the fun house of his world view,
changed his clown shoes for cement boots.
He was heavy as Hamlet,
& wouldn’t read his wonderfully quirky poems out any more
because people were telling him,
they were weak.
They were a little childish but
they weren’t weak.
Poets are supposed to care for each other.
I wish some people would close up like zippers.
I would like a copy of Amy Hempel’s Collected Short Stories please.
I’ll just do a quick search, she says. Good news, We have a copy in the system. One copy. We can get it from the Burnside library.
There’s only one problem.
Did you learn any foreign languages at school?
French, Spanish, a spattering of German. Why?
How about Croatian?
The only copy we have is in Croatian.
How did that even happen? I ask.
God only knows. Do you know any Croatian?
My cleaner comes from Montenegro. He taught me a few swear words. Does that count?
Not really, she says. You could do a crash course in Croatian.
No thanks. I’ll wait till there’s an English version.
It could be a while. This version came out in ’96.
Have you got anything else by Amy Hempel? I say. In English.
- have you ever encountered an unusual problem in the library?
- can you speak Croatian? are you one of the readers of that Amy Hempel book?
- photo by Jakub Arbet from Unsplash
What seems to be the trouble? he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place.
He gets the message.
Sits down to write the certificate.
There, he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick.
I peruse it quickly.
There’s something missing.
You haven’t written down the illness, I say . Why I had time off.
That’s right. If you had Alzheimer’s or a social disease would you want people to know?
My point exactly.
But I thought you had to put something down.
No, he says . And if they ask, tell them to take a running jump . Better still, tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms.
He stands up. Shakes my hand.
The next day at work I hand in the certificate.
The doc’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word.
I push it a bit further.
On the official form, the one you fill out yourself, where it says ‘Illness’ I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good. It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world.
From across the room
Eyeballed me on the 10 inch screen,
It’s tracery of veins
A network of canals, the orange-red sphere
the red planet
With a bright yellow centre.
Now, said the ophthalmologist,
Pointing out the dark smudges across its surface
Let’s look for signs of cataracts
And macular degeneration.
She eyed my eyeball closely.
I sat forward and awaited the verdict.
* photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
You wear me out.
You really do.
With your constant tap, tap, tapping.
Can’t you give it a rest?
Try other keys?
What about the ‘Q’?
Or the ‘Z’ or the ‘T’?
Not a wear mark upon them.
And what about the ‘B’?
My poor little ‘A’ is totally erased.
And ‘E’ and ‘C’ are not far behind.
Consider the other keys.
Pay them some mind..
I know my mother wouldn’t have approved
but my bus was late
I was idle
and this bloke on a bike
“to give his bum a rest”,
a privilege he did not extend
to his mouth.
I learnt about his five year bouts
with ‘the Mike Tyson of cancers’,
& this pugnacity encompassed drug pushers,
wife beaters, power utility scammers.
He wore black like Johnny Cash,
had two brassy skeleton rings
& he strutted around like a rooster.
Still he kept me amused till the bus
came along and took me away.
I waved as he sparred with the bus shelter.