Brevity Nine

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CrayonsBrian Eno Photo

by Janelle M. Masters

A student comes to ask me which is the right way to say crayon and I don't know. As I look into her eager blue eyes, her pink junior high cheeks, all I think is that I never called a crayon a crayon until I was a teacher. I always called them colors.

Her question opens the box again for the first time, that oily, waxy scent, candy apple red, brings back the kindergarten room, musty coats, wooden floors, nap time rugs, and Mrs. Buck's rose perfume on the corner of the drawing paper. We work on art until music time, and if our pictures aren't finished, we won't get to sing bird songs.
The big, round red Crayola is sized for tiny hands, fitting into my palm, a ruby jewel to draw a cardinal's breast. The color makes a slow ease across my page and the birds song glides with it and I'm somewhere in a tree, adding emerald green, hearing songs where I don't hear Mrs. Buck.
Suddenly she is there, pulling me back to where she is, at music time.  She's shrilling her voice to ask what's wrong with me, can't I listen?
She's hitting me on the head to remind me that I need to finish on time.
I leave my colors scattered on my desk, cardinals, rubies, emeralds.  This doesn't matter now. Years ago, I thanked her for teaching me how to read.  I'm a teacher, and I don't know how to say crayon.

Janelle M. Masters has published poetry in Prairie Schooner, Theology Today, Whole Notes, and elsewhere, and was a finalist in Comstock Review's poetry contest judged by Ellen Bryant Voight.  Prose pieces have appeared in Platte Valley Review.

Brevity previously published Janelle Master's essay, "Talking After Love."