The Carpenter's Son Mourns His Death
The carpenter attempts to trim the world,
to make it fit the vision and the need,
to plane and sand and square and join, fit flush:
but now that fickle bubble rests no more
between the level's aribitrary lines.
Before his work could weary of itself
the joiner broke, the job left incomplete.
It is the scent of pinesap I recall,
and resin, too, and heated roofing tar:
those smells that take me back to childhood.
And once again I am in awe of him.
On summer days, my father's sleight-of-hand
created cavalries of wood and nails:
his common sawhorses that were meant
to hold in readiness the workday load
became for me imagination's fierce
and war-like steeds, blazed by chalk dust.
And I rode recklessly as if I were
a savage, on a mount of raw and naked pine.
His hammersong of steel sang out, and made
me thrill to sounds like hooves make striking flint.
He told me not to weep for trees, for they
with honor and with grace desire the axe:
Their sacrifice would shelter weaker things.
Our homes, our lives, are gravestones, epitaphs,
and legacies of oak and pine and beech.
The forest bore the weight of loss, and in
the end, those same trees must have wept for him.
He was a kind of artist I suspect,
his softwood hands knew skills that shaped my childhood.
He lived and died alike with calloused palms,
with fingers resin-streaked and splinter-filled.
This memory song is late in coming.