Melissa Stein



The ruler left a welted stripe;
the hand and belt, raised letters

I could read. My desk held
parchment, paint, and mucilage,

its lid a face for stenciling—
how ink would fill the ridge compressed

in wood—those cells—compressed
for good—my own, what I was beaten for.

I never learned to play the violin.
I never learned what I was beaten for.

At Easter brushing watercolor on crayon—
what soaked into the egg’s white skin

and what resisted—beading there—
It’s possible to envy wax.

Sometimes I drew around the mark.
The red would fade, the blue would stay.

Blue shape, blue flower
yellow took. Then everything went in.

Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collection Rough Honey, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She is a freelance editor in San Francisco.