The Kindergarten/Back to Work Blues
Today is the first day of kindergarten for my eldest daughter. After dropping her off, I turned to confront my own first day back at work after a two-month summer holiday. I sat at my desk awhile, scribbled down a list of things I need to get done today, then ventured over to the shelves in my office and absentmindedly pulled down Mary Karr's book of poems, Sinners Welcome. By sheer accident, I cracked it open right to this most apropos poem:
Revelations in the Key of K
by Mary Karr
I came awake in kindergarten,
under the letter K chalked neat
on a field-green placard leaned
on the blackboard's top edge. They'd caged me
in a metal desk--the dull word writ
to show K's sound. But K meant kick and kill
when a boy I'd kissed drew me
as a whiskered troll in art. On my sheet,
the puffy clouds I made to keep rain in
let torrents dagger loose. "Screw those
who color in the lines," my mom had preached,
words I shared that landed me on a short chair
facing the corner's empty, sheetrock page. Craning up,
I found my K high above.
You'll have to grow to here, its silence said.
And in the surrounding alphabet, my whole life hid--
names of my beloveds, sacred vows I'd break.
With my pencil stub applied to wall,
I moved around the loops and vectors,
Z to A, learning how to mean, how
in the mean world to be.
But while I worked the room around me
began to smudge--like a charcoal sketch my mom
was rubbing with her thumb. Then
the instant went, the month, and every season
smeared, till with a wrenching arm tug
I was here, grown, but still bent
to set down words before the black eraser
swipes our moment into cloud, dispersing all
to zip. And when I blunder in the valley
of the shadow of blank about to break
in half, my being leans against my spinal K,
which props me up, broomstick straight,
a strong bone in the crypt of meat I am.