Brotherhood of loops and leanings, pride
of the steno pool, dim scriptures erased
from the palimpsests of chalkboards
and sidewalks, you once mourned
the parting guests from a Chinese wedding, recalling
the wind-scattered flowers, the tear-stained robe.
You granted land to church and lay alike,
asked queens for ships,
wished that a sister
could see the view from Pikes Peak
or Pompano Beach or Little Lakes Valley.
What latent urge was revealed by the hands
of your authors: the slow rising slope of Picasso,
the cramped, falling ts of Marie Antoinette?
Could Lincoln, rashed and fevered, have
cleared his thoughts on that November train
without the steady running of your logic?
Now you’re a doctor’s scrawl, prescribing
an ointment, a grandmother’s scribbles
among the scraps of a nursing home tray.
Oh, that the margins of student papers
hadn’t made me lose you, that email hadn’t
erased your ego, that keys didn’t correct our slant,
our wild dots and crosses.
Middle finger calluses have been replaced
by arthritic thumbs, ruled paper with the smooth,
obedient screens of a billion smart phones.
Even when she fell against a hot stove
as an infant, clutching her ruined hand
into a club, my grandmother turned her left
into a piston filling the notebooks the nuns gave her,
her lines liquid as the manuscripts of beatified monks.
For her pious script, she received a gold medal
from the founder of the town.
Night after night,
in the blue Palmer workbook, I kept my humps
under the dashed divider, my os and ps nodding
toward the next empty page. Mrs. Bigard
herself drove to our house to deliver
the third-grade ribbon and the two-dollar bill.
Now just sliding the stationery from its box
feels ancient, tearing the check from its packet,
picking up a pen to write what will only be read
as hieroglyphs in a world where the quick
brown fox no longer jumps over the lazy dog.
–Terry Kirts (Marion County)
Terry Kirts of Indianapolis is the author of To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Sevenpw Kitchens Press in 2010. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including Alimentum, Another Chicago Magazine, Gastronomica, Green Mountains Review, and St. Peter’s B-list: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints. A senior lecturer at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Kirts is a contributing dining editor at Indianapolis Monthly, and he appears weekly on B105.7 discussing the central Indiana food scene.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!