a life at the board

[estimated reading time 2 minutes]

what once was black
you turned to white
with each stroke of chalk
leaving its mark
not simply on vertical surfaces
depicting curves
and angles
but the brightness of understanding on minds
clouded with reflections of childhood
and the silliness of the moment

the past retreated
into modern whiteboards calling to you
to turn those white lines
into colors
myriad and bright
whose new arcs become food in the mouths of generations
whose sparks had not yet been kindled
but whose desire to see the world as it is
pose more challenge with each crop of youth
folded into newly-plastic seats

with each chord
and midpoint
an observer would be excused in thinking
the truth is far from the domain of ranges
and is not inscribed in a circle
other than life’s own
but they would be wrong

while symbols
and shapes may be a universal language
spoken by gods and mortals
on days both good
and thoughtless
it is neither equation nor simple proof
you offered those young minds
as the outcome of your talking
and writing
and questions
and answers

it is by your presence
that letters gave way to words of comfort
and numbers were dismissed
into the background of the safety
where the outside world of fights
and faiths
and females
and self
and other
were subdued into a background of white noise
and distance
making them seem nothing more than illusion
behind layers of chalkdust
and half-erased gentle memories

there is little truth in perception
yet in the eyes of each student their lives
and concerns
and fears
and words of craving were their only world
and in so many rooms they found nothing
even to distract them
from the self-obsession
we all once called our lives
but couldn’t have been more mistaken
as time shed those moments from our pasts
and we gradually discovered youth to be
a myth of understandings
bent farther than the arc beneath your white-chalked hand

from those rooms
they came into a world of desks
and chairs
where each thought they arrived to learn
and often to pretend to know
and hope for partial credit
and while they tasted a joy
they thought impossible to feel for simple numbers
and their hopes
and dreams
so large
yet written in logic’s dispassionate hand
they found something else in those hours

discovering the safety that lies in concern
for each young face
raised in anticipation
or dropped to desktop in exhaustion
knowing that above
and beyond
are nothing more than status quo
and hopes
and dreams
and prayers
are not restricted to the figures on the board
but are there only for the asking
and help is in the air
mingled with the scent of markers
and the long-departed memory of chalkdust
singing as half-forgotten choirs
whose legacy outlives us all

(this poem was composed for my father robert in commemoration of his retirement.)

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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.