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:
Cut 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 know 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