Rubbing out – Saxby Pridmore

Before we knew a rubber was a franger in American

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