Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Late at night, splashing my face and neck,

through sounds of water running

I hear cruel cuts

like pencil points fine sharpened

snapping against a smooth white page.

Quick rinsing, covered now

and tense, all stiff,

peering alarmed from broken privacy,

I for a moment harden,

with nor one clue,

against the senseless cutting,

like a writer stopped mid-page,

again, again,

pulled meanly up by pencil snaps

that break the flow of words.

Then looking up I hear the rain

and see the skylight dark and clear,

with brilliant heavy drops, like lovely marbles

bouncing free and poured with all delight,

dozens at once,

from some delighted boy’s young store.

All stiffness melts

as sounds of that night’s rain

come to my hearing not to cut,

or stop, snap, break,

but only to delight,

to enter soften pull

toward freshness of a wide wet night

outside my own small washing.

Clean, uncovered now,

I lie beneath the skylight

full of fullness,

as a writer full of story

leans to a clean white page,

dozens of sharpened pencils

ready at his hand.