I Used To Line Them Up

I used to line them up,
a child getting the orders in
for my homework.

So. Pen (yes), pencil (yes), a pad (yes)
and then the prepared pair
of rubbers - pencil- (yes)

and ink- . Ah no. That's gone
the way of the western
with Randolph Scott.

Ink rubbers were hard, unyielding
bastards that grated the
surface of paper.

One wrong word in the Latin,
one careless quondam,
and out it came, a pumice

ready to shred. Some rubbers
were soft one end, and
bastards at the other,

like the careers of headteachers
who began in gowns and worked
backwards to shell suits.

Side on, they were
parallelograms (the rubbers, not
the headteachers), grey and black,

The black killed ink.
It killed fingers. It gouged
the eyes out of isosceles

and other important words.
I used to flense my sentences
with the ink rubber: but then,

then came the tubs of Tippex,
nail varnish for either gender,
a smooth white boundary line

that marked the error off,
which showed the paper - RESPECT!.
You did not grind, you


smothered your blunders with
blisters of fluid eraser (this being
the true name of Tippex).

You couldn't write over it.
But it kept the page clean. I used
to empty the last long dollop

of Tippex with pride, on to the
yielding surface, the print. I used to.
But now I just cross things out.

But cross things.
I just cross out the things.
I run a line right through them.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday