I don’t know why I never took to dates –
my brain retreats from listed history.
I have a way with numbers in all states,
and puzzles with their tricky mystery
intrigue and challenge me, but as a rule,
this memory impressive in its scope
forsakes me now just like it did in school
at history, without a clue or hope.
Perhaps it’s that the scholarship is dull,
for I enjoy a story based on fact,
or maybe I intuit that it’s full
of propaganda, but it can’t attract
my interest or attention long enough
to let me get it any way but rough.
I like the sight of newsprint widest ruled,
with alternating lines an inch apart.
On such a surface we were early schooled
to print our letters. Now as then we start
the kids with solid guidelines high and low,
a dotted middle line to help with Es,
and deal out thick red pencils: see them so?
Our aging cohort shares the memories.
But Mom, I want to practice with a pen!
This fat red pencil’s too big for my hand.
Its lead so soft on newsprint sends a chill
through me, but worse than anything is when
I make mistakes. Why don’t you understand?
There’s no eraser, and I’m short on skill.
We talked at dinner of our gifted kids,
for we each have a pair, and sure they’re bright
as whips (who isn’t? child brilliance bids
in Berkeley for attention day and night).
Then I maintained I’m maybe just as smart
as mine or smarter, plenty smart enough
to guide them pulling artifice apart
(like raising me, but maybe not as rough).
Disdaining treatises I haven’t read
(for I don’t cotton to psychology
or critics’ words or “how to” books – instead,
I try to act from earnest memory),
when he said most of all we have to heed,
I countered: words from us are what they need.