The Art of Grading
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.