I don’t know if kids are still made
to take them, the Iowa Tests,
of course I could look it up,
not beyond googling, but Wiki
has no memory of this echo.

I was in the 8th grade, yellow
#2 black bile pencil at the ready,
desk cleared, humors silent.
This one was a vocabulary test,
and one word from it sticks

in memory still: melancholy.
Four choices, and I pick
happy, reasoning based
solely on sound – I thought
the tinkling mellow, jolly

and cock-a-hooped
filled the circle C and
moved to the next word.
Later, I happened to ask

Sister Mary what it meant,
melancholy, and whadayaknow,
I was veracious
and ran out to recess
happy as a clam at high tide.


  1. Dan Hen says:

    Black bile pencil ? I don’t get the “bile”.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      One of the four Humors, bile suggests irascibility and melancholy. Too much of it causes depression and aggression. Thus a bilious person. Here, the #2 pencil is associated with the having to take tests, testing the humors, for bile. The tests created a bilious atmosphere. From Wiki: “Black bile was associated with a melancholy nature, the word “melancholy” itself deriving from the Greek for “black bile”, μέλαινα χολή (melaina kholé). Depression was attributed to excess or unnatural black bile secreted by the spleen.[26] Cancer was also attributed to an excess of black bile concentrated in a specific area.[27] The seasonal association of black bile was to autumn as the cold and dry characteristics of the season reflect the nature of man.” Or of kids, back in school, taking tests.


  2. The wisdom of avoiding definitions/labels.
    (My first comment from my phone did not seem to go through.)


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Probably not the phone; I had closed up the shop for the day.


  3. …..the wisdom of refussing labels, definitions…


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Thx for reading and comment, Bill.


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