Do you remember pencils?



In primary school, Miss White’s class, I loved to stand by her desk and sharpen her pencils, in one of those machines with metal ears which you pinched to open the fierce, gripping mouth, which help the pencils, while you turned the handle to sharpen the pencil.


Remember pencil stubs,

which got so small they were hard to hold and you had to cramp your hand, but if it was the only thing in your pencil case, then you held on tight.


Remember how the big boy stabbed his friend on the hand, for a laugh, and how it left a black tattoo for ever more?

And how your mum, my mum, told me not to ever, never do that because you could get l lead poisoning, because you could.



Remember how simple it was?

You could write and then rub it out?

Sketch, doodle, blur and shade and then hide the paper in your pocket or pass it to a friend.


But now we are older,

more technologically advanced,

so we have pencils which are plastic which you turn but the thin lead snaps so you turn some more and then you throw the plastic away, in landfill, for evermore.

Or we have screens, and note functions, voice messages, apps, which need power, and precious metals and insurances and passwords.




I write in pencil,

on paper.

I use a rubber (which we can’t say any more because it is rude and so instead we say ‘eraser’..yawn),

and a small, metal, pencil-sharpener (which you have to be careful with because you can take out the blade and cut yourself if you are sad and so don’t just leave it laying around.)




I write and hear the soft swooshing of deft strokes on blank page,

I feel the not-quite-smooth drag across paper,

which slows me down

enough to


connecting brain,

to hand,

to sheet.




I feel the lump of calloused skin on my middle finger on my right hand and smile at the since-childhood sign of imaginings,

Signs on paper and on skin,

marks of meaning making.


I hold the pencil,

shortened by use

and it is an hour glass of thinking, of words, of doodles,

ebbing away with use.





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