From the first day, the teacher wrote as she spoke. An inkwell was a hole
without words, on the desk, which was like a pasture, leaving me free to think.
I could not repair my cursive with my pen or with my breath on the window pane.
The inkwells were filled from a large bottle of ink kept in the teacher’s closet.
My mother was disgusted by the inkwells, and by how I was forbidden to write
a letter to a friend. Was I the only one who found inkwells in the picture book?
The older boys sanded wood into serpents with claws, and filled the inkwells.
To my surprise, the words were more brown than black in my notebook.
Birds are called quills, when used. I could see the globe and the squares of Palmer
Method, encircling the room like wallpaper. The rustlings under my pen traveled far,
the faintest murmur. The word “recess” was next. In his lunch pail, the boy beside me
discovered a meal of cold potatoes. I felt the embarrassment of hooking the lunch pail
through my fingers. Weird tether. To make a ball, each of us brought some string
from home. We tried to dip the string into our inkwells. The teacher called out
positions to get into, such as a hawk. I saw my score. Woebegone, so much to do.
I positioned myself like a startled hare. Our desks sloped, and there was a groove
for our pencils and pens. The serpent of our script crawled off the page.