The Sunday Poem: Margaret Randall... Cursive Writing and Old Slide Rules

This morning Margaret Randall will be reading at Sunday Chatter (formerly Church of Beethoven).  You can hear her read "Cursive Writing..." in person.  I can almost see the audience react to this catalog of remembered artifacts and its twist at the end.  The above photo is courtesy of Albuquerque the Magazine.

Margaret Randall's new book is coming out in two weeks--The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones (WingsPress, San Antonio).  The cover was done by local artist Rini Price.  Margaret just got back from reading at The International Poetry Festival of Granada, Nicaragua.  "There were 160 poets from 60 different countries, and the most amazing thing was hearing so many different languages.  There were readings at night with a thousand people in the audience, and sometimes we read in small villages as well."

Cursive Writing and Old Slide-Rules

One day I will walk in a graveyard
where cursive writing and old slide-rules
sleep beneath dead leaves
and rain-soaked earth.
Elaine’s chortling laugh, one phrase
from a Brandenburg concerto
that once lifted my heart
above cacophony of noise
sweeps anonymous streets, shielding
our human register from touch.
I may stop to pay tribute
to crinolines and cashmere sweater sets,
egg beaters, rotary phones, transistor
radios and old typewriters
their red and black ribbons
floating spirals
over moss-covered stones on misty nights.
I may recall an IBM Selectric,
the raised letters of its tired steel ball
glistening in the light of a waning moon.
The permanently signaling left arm
thrusts from the window of a 1941 Ford,
its upholstery smelling faintly
of burnt plush.
A 78 rpm record spins beneath
the diamond tip of a tiny needle
recreating Patsy Cline’s familiar sound
in my astonished ears.
Daughters of the American Revolution
refuse Constitution Hall
to Marian Anderson’s perfect voice
and Eleanor Roosevelt
makes it right by inviting her to sing
before Lincoln’s imposing figure
where 75,000—black and white—
receive her offended voice.
Weekly newsreels at the RKO, Superman
vanquishing Khrushchev, Walkmans
their ear plugs deafening an era,
The Joy of Cooking, 1st edition,
and casseroles topped with thick slices
of Velveeta cheese. Carnation corsages
dyed two-tone pink to match
a strapless prom gown lost to memory.
Where will I find one reason to nourish
the hope that tomorrow’s graveyards
may imprison darker relics, dangerous
even in their after-life:
all those advertising claims, the lies
of those we love who love us back,
our hatred of children
and this grim currency of violence?
When will we bury greed, erase our fear
of women and difference, trust ourselves,
design a final resting place
for war?
Dare I hope noise camouflaged as ideas
dogma or commanding truth
will one day fail to greet me
as I rise each morning
and make my stumbling way through
digital possibility, hold tight
to the Mohawk two-wheeler,
faint oiled skin of that first Royal portable
or your green rayon dress, Mother,
with its white rope pattern
still so comforting to my young
and trusting cheek?

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 168

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on March 17, 2013 at 10:32am

Oh beautiful for spacious skies--yes, where is today's innocence?   I think I love your mother's green rayon dress the best, close tie with the Royal portable.  beautiful poem, Margaret  Nostalgia serving as a mirror to us now, what is this feeling like for little girls  and little boys now?  children do have a way of capturing the magic.

Comment by Jules Nyquist on March 17, 2013 at 1:44pm

Margaret, such vivid imagery and the emotions it provokes. Old typewriters, the selectric balls, eggbeaters, rotary phones, casseroles with velveeta cheese, you capture it all so well, and to your 'astonished ears' - the re-awakening, the lies, the advertising claims, Eleanor Roosevelt 'making it right'. I love the ending with the mother's green rayon dress and your trusting cheek. Our duty as adults to the children and our memories as children of adults.  You have it, right on!

Comment by Dee Cohen on March 17, 2013 at 4:19pm

Lovely words Margaret that conjure touching memories. Would love to here this out loud. Dee

Comment by Izquierdo on March 19, 2013 at 9:48am

A great poem and a great review of important personal aspects of our history.

Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on March 25, 2013 at 12:50pm

Fabulous, Margaret. I love the imagery--so much that nobody even knows about--the days before calculators. Two steps forward and one back. Will we ever get it about the idiocy of war? Wasting the planet and eachother? Thank you.

Comment by Margaret Randall on March 30, 2013 at 1:57pm

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. This is a wonderful form for poetic communication. Kudos to Jon.

Comment by Gina M on April 23, 2013 at 8:52am

It is amazing to me in my class of 9th graders, I cannot write in cursive as too many students are unable to read my letters. Also, I love all the imagery within this poem. I am just getting back into my poetic shoes after the last year of whirlwind in getting married and having a baby, and I am enjoying reading poems again. I agree with Margaret, kudos to Jon for this poetic form. 


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