My wife asks, upon rising, if I heard it coming down hard last night, the rain.
And I say I did not, though I saw, upon rising, the beads, the pearls of rain left
like dolphins' teeth, like little worlds along the eaves. And I wonder where I was, so deep
in sleep, so far away, as if I were absent, home from school one rainy 7th-grade afternoon,
not really sick, just lonely some, my classmates in arithmetic or doing penmanship,
the Rinehart system, their lonely heads in a row like raindrops on the line, consigned, bereft,
their loops, their little l's and o's, their curly q's, their pencils wearing down to nubs, the line
to use the sharpener, the shavings piling up inside like pillows filling up with down,
the long walk back between the rows, the little red-haired girl in the seat in front of mine,
mine empty all day long, so quiet-filled, her missing me a little, her pencil box upon
her desk, her plastic sharpener beside the inkwell hole, darkness-filled, where older students
long ago once dipped their feathered pens, goose-quilled, into India ink so dark and deep,
rich and still, to spill their lives along the pale blue, endless line like time, night rain
coming down hard already while we weren't listening, while we were fast asleep.
--- From Heaven & Earth Holding Company
©2010 University of Pittsburgh Press