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Page 190

In early high school, I would write my papers (final copies)
with a fountain pen, still hazardous, but far smoother
than the 3rd-grade dip-sticks (really, bald quills),
and it was pleasant to make the ink flow smoothly
into letters, pleasant to wield the gray device (a gift),
with its gleaming gill-like apertures, complex and almost organic.

The Bic (with which I write these poems before typing them
into my computer, which is surely jealous of my notebooks) --
this Bic is even smoother, but it lacks the sense of liquidity,
the drama of making a sharp point glide -- like the muscular flow
of a sharp-tapping, yet feline Gene Kelly. A ball point is,
after all, pointless. And until it clots, this Bic rolls along
uniformly, no thin versus thick, no character to its strokes.

Later in high school, I learned to use my first typewriter,
a Royal gift from Uncle-Leon-in-New-York-who-never-
traveled, and had no children, so liked to send us gifts.
(It was rumored, he had dandled me when I was a baby,
but not since). (I have no children myself. I send you poems.)

That gift I associate with guilt, because I took more than a year
to send poor childless Uncle Leon a thank-you note, not
that I wasn't grateful, but I hated writing thank-you notes,
and no gift seemed worth having to say things one is
expected to say, and it was worst of all when I felt
most grateful -- or that I should be.

(I send you poems. Where are your thank-you notes?)

So one thing I see if I look too long at a blank page
is that expectancy -- that I say the things
one is expected to say. Critics are just far-away uncles
and nagging parents, who remind you that Uncle Leon
(long not of that body) will be very hurt
if he doesn't hear back from you. (But if I say
the expected things, will that be me?)

Perhaps a guilt-inducing page is better than a page
waiting in ambush to snag my pen and splatter me
with my own ink, as if to say, "Who is writing
on whom?"

Note: The typewriter was a Royal gift – that is, it was brand-named a Royal Typewriter.

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