The Age of Chalk

I began teaching in the Age of Chalk,
when boards were black slate
quarried by the rough hands of men
who never knew that someone might write on them
words which could last forever.

Each time I picked out a new, smooth stick,
the tactility of the chalk soothed me,
and I cherished its whisper and click as I wrote.
And as I wrote, I felt the tension rise in my students
who anticipated that chilling squeak of protest
chalk makes when mishandled.

And the chalk dust!
Chalk dust deep enough by week's end
to fill the tray, great clouds of it
clapped out between felt erasers
like plagues of Egypt spreading deadly disease.

As I reminisce over the Age of Chalk,
I miss that scentless cigarette pack
from which I often shook one fresh stick
to write in dichromatic simplicity
of Alice's White Rabbit or Poe's Black Cat,
because a new piece of chalk
was straighter than the plot lines I'd drawn,
straighter than the age lines etched in my face
from thirty years of teaching writing, literature
and life's lingering lessons.

About the author:

Michael P. Aleman is Chicago born and raised, and hold a fine affinity for things Chicago, though moved to Powder River, Wyoming, as a teenager, and really appreciate the people of the West. He is a Christian who believes the writer's Muse is related to the Holy Spirit. Having taught English for 30 years, Michael now edits his own work rather than student work. He will begin teaching as Adjunct Professor of Education at Whitworth College in February. Lastly, but by all means not the least, Michael has been married to the same woman for 37 years, and enjoys writing love poems and stories for her.