I found an old book of rhymes today.
The verses were graphite on yellowed pages
And they powdered in my hands at the edges as I turned them.
I was chancing through the attic
For the hundredth Springtime it seemed
In search of memories to discard
Before they filled the space completely
And robbed the present of its due.
I had just piled by the door
(as I had twice before, but this time I wouldn’t weaken no I’d really toss them out this time, God knows we need the room and all that junk a fire hazard too)
A panda bear with black-bead eyes
And an envelope of golden hair
And an earthen crock containing dusty pebbles
Along with that old flat beach ball—
They were all in a pile, I said, when what should I find
This old book of rhymes,
Stolen from some school I think,
Or just never returned—
Not mine, mind you (I always returned my books)
But sister’s perhaps—
And though there were no names in the front
On the white sticker
Pasted crooked inside the cover
There were writings everywhere else
With first names inside
(who knew what it meant, it was a giggle and an order sister and a dirty picture kept up in the tree
Without guile or implication.
They were childish rhymes,
Patriotic you know
But without embarrassment
About the Civil War
And Joan of Arc.
I could hear them, memorized for hours by lamplight and
Being nervously recited the next day.
I hear the pauses, the “uhs” and the “I forgots” and then
The whishsh of the yardstick through the air,
The smart “sputch” of wood on palm,
The supressed howl that, if let out, cost five more.
Yes, an all-purpose book indeed
From which a single teacher could impart
Ah, to memorize again long passages of rhyme,
Twenty lines for Mary but for YOU, Albert,
Bad boy for not firing the school furnace today,
Bad furnace monitor,
You can have forty lines
And be prepared to recite of course; of course.
Again I feel the drudging walk to school,
My rhyme book loosely tied onto my pack
In hopes of losing it—again,
Swinging the books by their belt
Sending verses to heaven.
I put the book upon the discard pile
Not because I’m bitter mind you no but
Old books take up so much room
And they’re a fire hazard too, you know….