Clearance

A poem for Fathers’ Day …

Clearance

A face distorts in a fractured glass eye.
In the wreckage of a house clearance,
painted on gesso and northern white pine,
old acrylic eyelashes flash a recognition.

Stippled like a stormy summer,
worn and battered flanks shiver in the dust.
A torn rosette from a forgotten fete
hangs by a mane, shabby and faded.

Familiar sounds echo in the room:
the rhythmic squeak of tarnished swing irons,
the abandoned joy of a child’s laughter,
urging speed with giddying shrieks.

Fingers trace words etched in brass,
re-joining a father’s name at the base of a gift,
sold and lost in wretched turmoil
during the dying days of January.

Born from blocks of beautifully flawed wood,
glued and clamped, shaped with love,
the forty year provenance of his final project
documented in a set of saddlebag Polaroids:

an old bedroom carpet of wood shavings,
a row of gleaming chisels on the wall,
the hint of long hours breathing in dust,
but nothing of creased eyes and calloused hands.

No link here to the smell of machine oil,
the texture of warm oak and walnut,
house lights dimming with a fresh kick of lathe,
the change in pitch as steel sliced through wood.

Nor could they register damage from old failures
or the supressed images of adolescence:
a mis-timed throwaway comment,
the mistake of answering back,

the late regret of a mouthy kid,
pain ebbing to leave a tidemark of guilt,
the stain of harsh words that ride a life
and the memory of calloused hands,

clasped and shaking.

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