Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Art of Grading

The Art of Grading

I sit,

sifting through the seemingly endless stack of papers,

trying to find that elusive needle… the pricking, plain point of it all.

 Instead, I find decorative ribbons of black type and

undecipherable chicken scratch, the latter wounding my eyes

and making my hands bleed red ink.

I sigh,

looking down at the bright designs, suddenly and unexpectedly ripe,

like plump strawberries blooming in a gutter.

Then, I look up at the more appealing fruits of my labor,

grown in an eye-level patch on the wall.

I survey,

with pride, this piece of makeshift artwork,

made modern out of old-fashioned necessity.

Recycled paint strips are taped together in flamboyant solidarity,

probably embarrassing the blank expanse behind.

A familiar shade catches my eye and

I suspect

that the “Flaming Roasted Pepper” hue might have jumped—

a fatal leap from the display above to the drudgery below,

messily mixing life and death on the palette of my desk

and suddenly making this simple work more weighty, worldly. 

I search

halfheartedly for a suicide note, and find it written

in the mathematical certainty, the geometrical surety

of those color swatches ranked in a military neatness:

light to dark, soft to bold… bright to dull.

I squint,

peering down at the scattered seeds of the pepper,

which conveniently dot my i’s and point my exclamations—

“Great work!” or “Come see me!”

They make a mockery of the patterned squares,

which are held in a sequence—a sentence

that cannot be changed or challenged—period

like the order of the alphabet (minus E).

I succeed                                                                          

in finding this irony, but cannot find a way to escape with my life,

to forget… to unfold the creases in my memory

that prove how art imitates life,

like rigid rectangular gradients reflecting curved grading scales.

But one person’s color is another’s colour, so

I sour

at the self-created symbolism,

at the rainbow-striped runways to success,

at the predictable Litmus tests for intelligence,

at the slippery ladders that are safe only for those on the highest rungs,

ringing the bell of achievement with one hand, the other clenched tightly over the identity

that they were born with, “fair” and square.
I savor,

rather, the freedom of splatter and spray paint,

but fear I will lose my commission along with my mind.  And so,

I sit still,

I still sigh,

and I sadly succumb to coloring inside the lines.

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