Two Things We Don’t Do Much Anymore


One day I was reminded of the exercises my generation lived through while learning how to write cursive.  Not just how to write, but how to write well.  One of the tools we used was the Palmer Method of handwriting.  We did not use pencils for this, and we didn’t as yet have fountain pens, much less ballpoint pens.  Ours was a wooden stem into which we placed a small metal penpoint (which needed replacing often).  And then we dipped the pen into a bottle of ink.  Often.

In this type of writing we did not write with our fingers but with our arms. Pen in hand,  we placed the underarm on the desk and rolled on that fat/muscle to make the motions of writing . . which were either up and down or round and round.  For practice we did push-and-pulls and ovals, holding the hand still and moving the arm.  If you try this you will see it is the exact movements we use to make numbers and letters.  We filled pages of these scrolls and letters and numbers, and in time were required to submit a perfect page and we then received a beautiful blue and gold pin to wear.  That was in the 30’s.

One day, some years ago, as I stood patiently ironing a stack of my husband’s shirts, I realized that again I was making those same two movements. . . either round and round or up and down.  It came together in a poem which I promptly wrote when I left the ironing board for my coffee break.

Palmer Method 

I fall into a rhythm
With an iron in hand.
My arm, extension of my mind,
Does push-and-pulls and ovals
On the backs of shirts,
Signs cuffs and collars
With a flourish.
Shirttails almost meet
As one goes off and
One goes on the board,
So gracefully I work
Together with myself.
Thought roams free.
My fingers channel heat
To do the smoothing,
A laying on of hands
To discipline my pride
And touch my love
To wrinkled feelings
That need soothing.

        – Doris Markland

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanie Sellars
    Nov 26, 2013 @ 17:01:26

    I could see you ironing, visualizing every move, what a beautiful connection with the Palmer Method. the shirt, and the sweet love for your hubsand….Only from a true poet….thank you for sharing….looking forward to more.


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