To the Lady Who Gave Out Pencils on Halloween
by Paul Hostovsky

I would like to say thank you,
because I don't think I said thank you
once in all those years
that I climbed your steep front steps
in my mask or sheet or wig or witch's hat
and held up my opened pillow case
among the other opened pillow cases
like so many straining baby-bird mouths
in the hope that you would finally come around
to our sweet-tooth point of view. Which you never did.
So we mocked you, and we spurned you,
and we littered your lawn with our candy wrappers,
our chewed gum the sweet had gone out of,
the rinds and sticks of the much-lauded,
much-coveted candied apples your neighbor
Mrs. Schachtel gave out each year--the syrupy
antithesis to your dry and austere
number two pencils. But they survived,
it needs to be said--when all that sugary
frivolity melted away, your stiffly formal
wooden gifts remained, like so many horizontal
soldiers standing at attention at the bottom
of the bag. Deployed in kitchen drawers,
desk drawers, jars jammed with pens, pencils,
brushes, penknives, magic markers, emery boards,
they were mostly overlooked, forgotten. Some of them
probably outlived my entire childhood. A few
probably outlived you. It's entirely possible
that one or two--this one, for example,
which feels as sharp as the day it was first
sharpened--could outlive me, too.

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