A Gift of Chalk

Día de los Reyes Magos, 2009

My friend L. once gave me a box
of white chalk the approximate size
& shape of a pack of cigarettes.
What’s this, I asked. Well, if someone
comes up & asks you for a cigarette,
she said, you could give him
a piece of chalk. O.K., thanks, I said,
& stuck it absent-mindedly in
my backpack. Just now, rummaging
in the bottom of the pack for a book,
I found it again. It took me a second
to remember where it had come from.
A mouse had gotten in at some point
& nibbled a small hole in the top
of the box, but the twelve chalks were all
still unbroken. Development Through
Creativity, says the Crayola logo,
as if there were any other way.
Makes clean, smooth lines & erases
easily, it says on the back,
& suddenly I have a strong urge
to go out & draw something on
the sidewalk, something with clouds
& white orchids, polar bears, paper
birches, skeletons, dandelion seedheads,
albino deer with great branching antlers,
waterfalls, waterlilies, the Milky Way—
all with the smoke from elegant
faux cigarettes. But it’s dark out now,
& winter. Sleet ticks against
the window, & the walk is buried
under a fresh half-inch of white.

8 Replies to “A Gift of Chalk”

  1. It’s funny how such little gifts and whatnots keep popping up at odd moments, poking their figurative noses into the present.

  2. Chalk in public is a beautiful medium.
    Free (nearly),
    Light hearted,
    An unexpected vector for The Great Conversation.

  3. In downtown Charlottesville, we have a monument to the First Amendment (inscribed as such) which is essentially a giant permanent chalkboard (solidly built, and two-sided). It’s usually crammed full of stuff ranging from political comments to “So-and-So is a [nasty insult]”. (I once saw someone “correcting” one of the latter: “[girl’s name] is a whoreXXlesome person”.)

    There’s also a podium next to it, but I’ve never seen anyone speaking from it.

  4. Evan – I agree. Unfortunately, my own sidewalk is private.

    David – That sounds very cool. If I lived there, I’d abuse the hell of it – but for poems rather than polemic or invective.

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