Saturday, February 18, 2012

The New Erasers

I remember when the new erasers came
long and sleek and gray, suspiciously like
antler velvet, as though behind the blackboard
might be heaped the heads of desecrated deer.

The teachers knew you could not let a child,
even once, even as a treat, even alone,
clap those long erasers each to each:
so white and full an ectoplasmic cloud appeared,

a mother ghost of chalksmoke: they would
never ever stop, clap after clap, summoning
mother after mother. But once, one afternoon,
I don't remember or I never knew why,

the glory came to me: and instead of recess
I got to stand alone, calling ghost after ghost
to life in the slantwise sun, until my throat caught
and my hands were powdered like a baker's.


Anonymous said...

It's a rite, that experience. I love your comparisons, what a great poem.

Vida x

Zhoen said...

Is there a story about mothers and eraser dust I've never heard of? Or is this just new imagery?

Lucy said...

a poem about banging board rubbers! wonderful, and I love the antler velvet.

(Yet it troubles me a little, sorry to be so tedious and literal, that they were new but then also full of dust... or I suppose it was at different times.)

Kathleen said...

Oh, what a joy! I remember doing that, too. Maybe the best teachers let each student do that one special time in their lives...

Dale said...

Thanks so much, Vida!

Zhoen, so far as I know, it's new.

:-) Board rubbers! And Arvind, on Facebook, tells me that in India they were called "dusters."

Hmm, yes, they shouldn't be both new and full of chalk dust, you're right.

:-) Maybe that's what it was, Kathleen!

Amanda said...

Suddenly I miss the smell of just-washed, still-damp chalkboard. The chalk dust never quite all washed away, just as it could never all be banged out of the erasers.

Michelle said...

beautiful. Shared on Facebook. :-)

marly youmans said...


All but the first line--too new, as Lucy says--but don't get rid of the antler velvet and chalk ghosts...

Peter said...

So evocative of my youth, even though I still work with two erasers every day!

Louise said...

Brilliant. You took me back thirty years with that poem. Love it.