My brother, Conor, used them as they should be used,

the rings. Hoops of grey rubber to throw at numbered

hooks on a board and make the grownups who came to our place


for their daily drink call out. Well done! when one caught on.

To me, one was a thing to twirl atop my four-year-old

pointy finger, till it flew. Or they were adornments to array


my arms, making of me a Sheba or a Cleopatra, a queen

of places with names like Abyssinia or Timbucktoo. Their

circle of air was an ocean, open with everything.


And the black board where they used to chalk

the tally was where, up on a barstool, I liked to practice

writing: A. And B. And C.  And where, one day, with dust


dancing round a nearby ray of sunlight, I was caught

by a moment I now know will forever hold me rapt:

when meaning came swimming towards me, white


out of black, and set me smiling: Apple! And Ball! 

And Cat! Behind, Conor threw a ring and the men

were calling. Yes! Score! Good man yourself! while I cast

off, and lay down in language, braceletted wrists aloft.


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