I used to feel the subject was nothing, studying my own language,

so easy. I thought I knew everything, remembering all of the forms

of to be, that am is a verb.

I was able to juggle a present participle among the pluperfect

on tests. In eighth grade, strict Sister Rose made us write

an essay about ourselves. I started with the title

but couldn’t think of one. I hated the personal,

thought like my mother who said to keep my mouth shut

because she always said too much

and got in trouble. I got a D for rambling.

Tonight is so clear the sky is shiny, unbreakable.

It soothes my shoulders, soothes the braided rug.

I think of ordering a lampshade

with a clipper ship, its base a pretend telegraph,

and a table of willow sticks. I’ve always loved codes, forms,

diagrams like fishing lines dangling

from the subject and predicate, which could finally be

caught from the mystery of syntax,

to be erased, thrown back,

to go on living somewhere invisible.

Then in ninth grade, Mrs. McCarthey,

with her disheveled blouses and crowded teeth,

assigned a poem, with a metaphor, not about me,

but a body of light. I wrote about Venus,

her distance

and electricity.

First published in Ruminate

Nancy Takacs is the author of several books of poetry, the latest of which is “Dearest Water.”

This story appears in the March 2024 issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.