Ronnie Sirmans: “Sloughing Words”




They say a single pencil
can write about 45,000 words. 
When I was a kid and wanted
to sharpen a pencil at home, 
I would always turn to Daddy  
and his handy pocket knife.
I didn’t realize each sloughing 
meant words falling to the floor.
Synonyms, antonyms, homonyms
drifting among the dusty motes.
I had persuaded my parents 
to buy a Crayola big box
with the built-in sharpener—
which didn’t work on pencils, 
I would discover while I marveled
at the 64 colors before they dulled.
I was the kid who would wear out 
burnt sienna, maize, peach, mahogany,
goldenrod, bittersweet, and even silver 
for use as flesh tones when I colored. 
I stayed dutiful with homework,
numerals in addition to words, 
and so I’d often ask Daddy
(that’s what I called him at first
before trying synonyms like Father,
palindromes Dad and Pop, finally 
settling on Pa, as utilitarian as pi or po) 
to sharpen, unblunt, dedull my pencil. 
If you’re more a geometer rather
than a wordsmith, did you know
a pencil can draw a 35-mile line?
I could never make it that far:
Daddy’s small blade conjured gray dust,
infinite points falling off a straight course.



About the Author: Ronnie Sirmans is a digital editor at an Atlanta print newspaper, and his poems have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, Sojourners, America, and elsewhere.


More By Ronnie Sirmans: 

The Word with the Schwa that’s Really a Short U

Remembering the Great Flood in the Frozen Food Aisle


Image Credit: Odilon Redon “Conque marine” Public Domain




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