Letter to Miss McClurg
I am sorry about being tardy
With this thank you for excusing me
From the last study hall each day
So I could work three hours
After school, grinding lenses.
At sixteen, I did not know why
You drew a line through “three”
On the note I brought and changed it
To “two and a half,” costing me
Half an hour of pay each day
And requiring that I stop
At Al’s Diner for a hamburger
Before going to work.
In that blunt world of smoke and trains
Where remote fathers carried their silence
And despair each morning into the dust
And fire of the mills, I was not honed
To catch the flicker of concern
That visited your stern blue eyes.
Now sixty years have passed
And I do not know where to send
This note to ask your pardon
For missing the intent of that thin
Stroke of ink, a gesture drawn
To put some meat on the bones
Of a skinny kid.