Mailing It In

I love forgetting about something until it shows up in the mail. You don’t really get to do that much in this blissful epoch of two-day and even sometimes same-day deliveries. But a while back I was offered a thing and I – wisely – accepted. I chided the sender once, then left off, and yesterday it arrived. “That’s odd handwriting.” I knew it wasn’t my mom’s, thought it could have been my dad’s, if he was in a hurry, then I looked at the return address and remembered that Miss Dickinson had been on her way, as she says in #324, Some Keep the Sabbath, “all along.” Thanks go out to Gerard for the best of gifts: a book with a personalized inscription:

It’s a gambit of sorts, because I gain more from it than this book. It means that I, like Gerard before he sent it, now have two copies and can send one off to anyone who wants it. Raise your hand in the comments and we can work it out.

There’s a lot going on, to be sure, but I don’t want to talk about it. I want to do this: Sanding the deck (it’s done, BTW, we’ll stain this weekend) inevitably, finally, reminded me of this poem:


There are days you learn things
like —
the real feel of sawdust,
downy in plush piles
No trace of the pain
of its bellicose birthing
Days you learn that things  
you don’t long look at —
things made when two mean pieces meet
and one must give —
are too quickly swept away
The first time you smelled it —
a tidy slice that bled
all freshness from the dying
whine of the chopsaw
(hard named thing!)
was in the garage, probably,
or a cobwebbed shed or even
in the bright back woods,
under a stiff wind
that moved whole seasons
and could not help but carry
the fruit of hewn history
straight into you
That first time it was only looking —
A place to live
A home forever
We know it now not
as the smell of the jobs of our fathers —
jobs that didn’t seem enough
We know it now
as the smell instead
of the work they did
that we silent saw
(and they more silent did)
Work that was rough,
that was mean,
that mother sometimes seemed to think
wasn’t good for much
That it was only the work —
just that, merely the work —
that made them,
merely, men
But now we know that Mama knew
and nothing good was left unseen.
We know that she knew that
Papa had to be the silent thing
to clear a little holy space
for a little violent shepherding
Now we KNOW that Mama knew
what rough cuts made the dust,
and how she must not just sweep it up
but that she must
(hard fought stuff!)
form piles —
neat peaks to bear up the brutes,
the boys, the noise-born boys!
whose shouts we shussshhhh —
stamp right out.
Believing —
we can polish the mean teeth
of the saw,
pad the menacing head
of the hammer,
quench the fires blasting
in the bellies,
And still have a house to live in
Mama —
who made us
Who made us
whole —
sees us act
as if we could make all the hard things soft and the loud things
quiet and the mean things nice and never once put tooth to tree.
As if we could have the
(yes, messy)
blessing of the dust
without the saw
We never saw that
mama cuts things, too
She lifts her blade while papa
(who always mutely knew)
swings his, severing, down
We stand between, above —
smelling home with every
swipe and hack

13 thoughts on “Mailing It In”

    1. Thanks, Bob. It’s a little messy, unstructured for my tastes, but sometimes you write the poem that wants to be written.*

      *and then you go back later and revise the bejeezus out of it.


  1. (searches card catalog. huh. realizes little home library is lacking. searches “keyboard strokes for raised hand.” huh. ctl. com. space.)


    1. I sent you an email several days ago, using the contact form on the Big Food site. Figured that might be a good way to get the book mailing arrangements made. I’ll assume you have not spontaneously lost your desire for that particular not-so-crappy old book, so I will take the grand risk of exposing some of my personal information to the internet for the very first time, ever, at all, in order that you may email me with a mailing address for Ms. Dickinson’s poems. They are eager to experience life on the Big Food Compound.


  2. Hi Andy your trip to Idaho sure looked like a lot of fun for your whole family. I really liked the lake pictures. Especially the one with the kids on the shore. Nothing says summer like kids and water. When you posted about how we feel things. I find I rely on empathy the most. It is the only thing that works for me. It seems to serve me well, as long as I pay attention to it. That was an impressive reading list you posted. I’m an avid reader myself and that would have been a lot for me. Have you been able to re-connect with your brother? Hope he is doing as well as can be expected. I hope you can escape Seattle before your property values plunge from all the civil unrest. I must wrap things up and do outside chores. It will be 100+ today.


  3. Hoping all is well with you. From an earlier comment you left, my assumption is you are reading assiduously.


  4. So what’s new besides the dumpster fires on Capitol Hill and the street racers doing doughnuts in front of the Space Needle?


    1. Man, I don’t even know. I’ve unplugged so completely from current events that I wouldn’t have known there were wild fires if I didn’t choke on smoke last week when I opened the kitchen window (was that last week? Two weeks ago?).

      I’ll write up a post sometime in the next couple of days and see if that gets me going at all.


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