It is a test.
Not as functional as potty training
or as complex as matching shapes and colors
but a test just the same.
And so you sit doubled over
in a position that defies bones
with smudgy fingers working carefully
face screwed with concentration
and an occasional, focused and exasperated huff.
The blue cannot bleed to the red.
The red cannot touch the yellow,
because you are guided by solid black lines.
Working in earnest
to make the crayon behave in your hand.
Learning that if you press hard
the color is dark;
if you press lightly, it is barely there.
Finding wild abandon at having filled the edges
so you can broad stroke scribble through the middle.
Just the same, it is a test.
Rewarded even when what should be white in the eye is green
and the tongue is yellow
or the nails are striped.
The main goal is always staying inside the lines.
In one stroke you are 50
and all the books are filled
with tidy, neat inside-the-line precise shade.
What do you do when the borders disappear?
The sudden death,
your own breaking body
the change in course
a blank page.
What do you do when you must
create the image from scratch?
When your tiny hand only knows how to behave
and never learned how to give birth,
to improvise or riff?
So you dread the first un-girded mark
of your life that isn’t a test.
and obsess a little I guess….
Somehow, you just have to learn to love the mess.
One thought on “Inside the Lines”
Awww! That is wonderful! At our daughter’s preschool the teachers insisted there would be NO coloring inside the lines. Maybe that prepared our little one to “learn to love the mess” for what was/is to come. I love your poem and analogies, Adam. Thank you.