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.