Masque of the Red Pencil Death



The masquerade party commences.

“Another day in paradise!” quotes
the first floor clerk as he shuffles
toward his glassed-in office, he wears
the old man persona from his toes

The science teacher smiles
as I stride by – I want to comment
on how the smile was a nice touch;
no one will recognize her wearing one.

The custodian who has lived
here twenty-five years, having come
from Colombia as a teenager, forgot
his costume, never remembers his mask.

The party, strangely, happens
in separate rooms, and the costumes
are worn largely for students; not
really much mingling in this menagerie.

As I seek the door, partied out, dragging
my mask behind me, the clerk grumbles
as I pass him, “Another day, another….”

I recall, much too late, why I wear a mask.


Written for dVerse Poets Pub.

27 thoughts on “Masque of the Red Pencil Death

  1. How terribly sad and accurate to the teaching life! Love the characters drawn here, Charley. The custodian who never wears a mask- just ‘Is.” The science teacher who is unrecognizable in a smile; know that one. Love the line of being tired at the end of the day and dragging the mask behind. This is eerie. Great write!


    • School… any career, probably… suffers from, and is blessed by, having people involved in the processes. I hope I didn’t trigger too many Poe-esque moments for you. The red pencil was my bane as a student!


  2. Having been a classroom teacher for many years, I can sure relate to this! I sometimes came home dragging, energy kaput! Perhaps that’s because I always thought of teaching as a “performance” in many ways…and that sure does equate with the mask idea here. And the custodian…who just “is”. What I think of is the poor custodian in my grade school who I remember seeing in the hall spreading some kind of sawdust stuff on a pile of throw-up from a little kid. He just did his job….he just was.


    • Thank you for your response. I wrote a bit of this from memory (yesterday’s memory, actually), and just a bit of it from my imagination. Doing home visitation hospice work, at times, seems preferable to some of my days in education. …and that’s all I have to say about that; paraphrasing Mr. F. Gump. Glad it struck a memory… or a nerve. 🙂


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