Another K Kind of Day

Today is the first day of kindergarten for my eldest daughter, Tink McCain. 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.



  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Words look beautiful.

  2. Good poem, some trouble understanding it.

    By the way, is this the appropriate place to ask why the security appears to be so tight on this blog? It can be trying after a long day at work.

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