we had the real thing. Not
these white and transparent
poly-something ones, of the sixties and thereafter.
Before pollution, when erasers were just rubber
things got pretty grubby. Hands
had to get inspected and’
the chattels of your desk got black with lead.
Our rubbers cracked and crumbled in their perishing
but the rich kids’ ones went worse
and got sticky. We faced the heroes choice
– stay with your mistake or take the chance
for rubbing out could make a bigger mess.
No back-space key
– there was polio and cane
you got either, none or both
but for things that you could change
you had to hold on long
enough, to go down through the layers
– the remedial smudge before the mark, to a nice white beginning.
Originally published in Island, 2001