for C.M.


Carl concentrates on his Kanji homework
like a beaver building a dam;
Every pencil stroke is a twig
that must be placed perfectly
else the structure collapses.
His eyebrows narrow as he strives
to create a perfect balance on the page.
He lives inside the lines of the characters;
counts strokes in his sleep
where others count sheep.


Some at the lunch crowd
view him as a performance artist
His pencil a trapeze as he swings across the page.
Sometimes the table shakes slightly
and invokes gravity;
His eraser sits by his side as a safety net.
Carl's hand rubs against the homework sheet
like sandpaper as he sweeps off the dust
and reclimbs the ladder.


He will entangle himself in the lines,
a master architect of No. 2 calligraphy.
His love for form and motion will shape the kanji,
fill the assignment with careful marching units
of characters arranged as fragile as pick-up sticks.


When the page has been completed,
a monument built to the diligence of students,
He will click it into the loose-leaf notebook,
pick up his Cherry Coke, grumble at the onlookers,
and continue with his day,
sliding back into five foot six and computer science.
The artist fades away,
perched behind the round symbols of his eyes,
hidden by his fear of us seeing a character flaw.

(c) Deanna Rubin 1998 writing index