The Wrong Shade of Blue
On my desk stands an assortment of cheap pens, conference swag stamped with the names of cities and malls, colleges and garbage haulers, hospitals and law firms, architects and engineers and janitors. Some are fat and uncomfortable to grip, like writing with a broomstick. Some scratch the paper with stiff unrolling ball points. My favorite boasts a three-inch ruler, a level, and a screwdriver bit in the top: the engineer. The pens rise from a rough clay jar we turned so awkwardly on a wheel when we were together and laughing and making a memory – perfection was not on the agenda. I can’t quite bring myself to throw the motley group away, in favor of a box of homogeneity. They work passably well, and my children might want to play Boggle or have a Portuguese lesson. And each pen has the hidden humble capacity to write a work of artistic genius in the right fingertips, and scrapping them seems tantamount to unraveling an unwoven tapestry, erasing an unwritten masterpiece, a manuscript only in the mind, lost before it can be discovered.
Colored pencils join in to fill out the vase, their sharps pointing upward so my nine-year-old can more quickly tell the colors, but she is fifteen now, her old coloring book filled with empty outlined spaces. And yet the pencils still point colorfully upward amidst the mismatched pens.
Once a therapist insisted I write out my homework in longhand, not typed on a keyboard, because she said writing longhand with pen on paper engages emotive parts of the brain. And I have noticed how the slowness of writing longhand leads my bolting racing thoughts to circle back and weave and coalesce into considered cognizance instead of running neck-and-neck with ninety words a minute, allows a different quality of flow, the rushing current slowed into swirls and eddies and whirlpools and dark blue-green depths, and as a student of the river I hope to read the roiling holes and course the main channel without flipping or dumptrucking, and though I might be tossed in rolling choking fighting to find air and cough and shiver terrified, yet I can rise and thank God for my flotation. Straight speed draws one’s attention ever thrillingly forward but distracts from the beauty and mystery of periphery, of the full river canyon view. And so I write my essays and my entries and my letters and my poems in my best curling cursive which has improved and is the envy of many typists today but is plain and imprecise against the calligraphy of a century ago.
The engineer is emptying of ink and my writing fades. Clinking and rummaging, I begin again with the janitor, though short and skinny and the wrong shade of blue.
Roger is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist. Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season. Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit. A Time and A Season gathers Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births. The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.