Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Practicing His Signature

Each time, before he put nib to paper,
he’d swirl the pen without touching down,
like a batter taking practice swings,
then he’d commit the ornate T,
all curve and slant,
and then the W, a march of waves,
each initial properly dotted with a period.
Then the surname, half Palmer, half Hancock,
loop-de-loops and forward rolls.

I saw him do it any number of times.
Take out a yellow legal pad
and lift up the first blank page,
he never wrote on that,
then sign his way into two columns of himself,
studying each line after he finished it
and then move on
until he had a page of the shortest life sentences.

Why that empty guardian sheet?
To hide the vanity? Or just protect his good name?
He took pride in his flourish
but no one else needed to know.  

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