Learning Arithmetic in First Grade by Judith Harris

Learning Arithmetic in First Grade

Across the window pane
of my study, the woody vines
of the Boston Creepers
cling tight to the masonry
like beads on an abacus’ string.

As I look closer, I’m reminded
of how I learned to count
by methodically moving each bead

as a day to the side, counting
to myself another day over,

then putting my head on my desk
for a nap, and leaving the rest
for tomorrow.


Judith Harris is the author of The Bad Secret and Atonement (LSU Press) Night Garden (Tiger Bark Press), and Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing (SUNY Press). Her poems have been published in The Nation, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Hudson Review, Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, the syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry, and Poetry Daily and Poem of the Day from The Poetry Foundation and on NPR. She is currently at work on a new book of literary criticism, The Poetry of Loss: Romantic and Contemporary Elegies (Routledge Press) to be published next year.