Today's poem is by David Wagoner

The Son of a Carpenter

He knew the shapes and the gnarled persuasions
      Of wood, how it could be made
            To hold itself together, even in pieces,
With or against its grain, upright
      Or level or at some human angle
            With mortise and tendon, with dovetails,
And how, seasoned and cured and stained,
      It could be depended on to serve
            More than one lifetime, though it might lose
Its firmness if allowed to suffer too long
      In water or fire. He knew how it could rot,
            Be warped or broken, but revered it
For what it might become. He had seen it turn
      Under his hands from its raw nature
            To something longer lasting and man-made,
Made beautiful by chisel and adze and plane,
      By surrender under the iron teeth
            Of the saw and the slamming down
Of the hammer, again and again
      Driving the nails home. He knew enough
            To rest at the end of days against a tree,
In its brief shade, leaning back
      Awkwardly but gratefully
            Against the living wood that had taken
Its own shape before his and could make him
      Give in to it. He would have time
            To wonder then (as his eyes wandered
Down across empty fields to the beginning
      Of the desert) why the groves of his occupation
            And his father's were falling, even as he kept watch.

Copyright © 2003 David Wagoner All rights reserved
from Northwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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