The Craftsman 

by Michael Nagrant

What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what have you, to hew, to carve, to mold, coil, and plane ... —Dylan Thomas

Leaving for the graveyard
shift your green Chevy
spit exhaust, coughed cancerous
as the engine stuttered
and the transmission

lumbered in by morning,
you lay like a corpse
in your bed
until I woke you
with math homework.

Wringing palms and cursing equations
you wished I’d taken metal shop.
The numbers and symbols swirl round
while you ponder:

The Quadrilateral, rhombus, parallelogram
pi, gamma, greater and less than.
Specific constants play the part
in the forces of angular momentum
which drives you back to the quotidian.

Head hung in the blue collar noose,
one tug too tight and again tonight
your head will hang soulless over
the grime of the factory floor.
You will be covered in the oily blood
of broken machines, weeping kerosene,
as your sweat fuels the blast furnace,
pitching hot light over the shopworn,

leaving them wincing at the boom, thud,
plodding of pistons, the clank of the crankshaft
the crash of cogs, the gnash of gears.
A horrific fantasia that grips cartilage
and rips ears open, dashes down
your Eustachian tubes and explodes
in neural bursts,
an electrical storm short-circuiting synapses
and blowing the cerebral connection.

Break time

Revival in bites of mom’s grilled ham
amongst dreams to send me to
college so I would live
free of your arthritic wrists.

So that my children will
not be woken up in
the ides of night
Hurriedly, bleary eyed
buckled in and whisked
to the hospital where you lay.

I remember
the blood soaked hand.
You said you were tired.
Missing the metal die,
the machine pressed flesh
as I pressed yours then.

I found the perfect words
as a poet, I love you

And so you have sent me
here for my dreams,
where I explore poetry.

Where labor is of the
mind and not the practiced sinew.

Yet there are still challenges.

There are no labor
unions for hopeful poets.

Find more imaginative stories and poems ... return to the Summer Fiction 2001 home page

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