My mother complains she can’t read my handwriting.
She says it’s a scrawl like a doctor’s. When I point out
that I am a doctor, she rolls her eyes. Apparently a PhD
doesn’t count. She was taught the right way. In the 1950s.
By nuns. I say I can’t read hers either, and it’s less beautiful
than she thinks. “It’s still better than yours,” she retorts.
Alas, I can’t disagree. As for my father, he barely writes at all—
he only lifts a pen to pay a bill, sign his name.
The students I teach send text messages in class.
They complain if I make them handwrite a test. They barely
learned cursive in school. Sometimes I feel like one of the last
monks still decorating manuscripts, long after Gutenberg’s
disruption. I know this is an old person’s sentiment.
I prefer to type my prose, but I always handwrite poems.
My numbers look like half-open windows, flags
of countries that don’t exist anymore. My letters
look like hitchhikers standing at the side of the road,
or old friends waving goodbye, smaller and smaller
as the car pulls away.
Jeannine M. Pitas is a writer, teacher, and Spanish-English literary translator living in Iowa, where she teaches at the University of Dubuque. Her first full-length poetry collection, Things Seen and Unseen, was published by Mosaic Press in 2019. Her most recent translation, We Do Not Live In Vain by acclaimed Uruguayan poet Selva Casal, was published in 2020 by Veliz Books. Her poems, articles and translations have recently appeared in U.S. Catholic, National Catholic Reporter, The Christian Century, Religion Dispatches, Convivium, The Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and The Paris Review. She also contributes to the Catholic blog Vox Nova and is the Spanish translation editor at Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry. Some of her favorite poets include Zbigniew Herbert, Wisława Szymborska, Denise Levertov, Pablo Neruda, and the various writers of the Book of Isaiah.