To judge if a line is true,
banish the error of parallax.
Bring your eye as close as you can
to the line itself and follow it.
A master tiler taught me this.
People wish to walk where he has kneeled
and smoothed the surface.
They follow a line to its end
and smile at its sweet geometry,
how he has sutured the angles of the room.
He transports his tools by bicycle –
a bucket, a long plastic tube he fills with water
to find a level mark, a cushion on which to kneel,
a fine cotton cloth to wipe from the tiles the dust
that colours his lashes at the end of the day.
He rides home over ground that rises
and falls as it never does under his hands.
He knows how porcelain, terracotta and marble hold
the eye. He knows the effect of the weight
of a foot on ceramic. Terracotta’s warm dust
cups your foot like leather. Porcelain will appear
untouched all its life and for this reason
is also used in the mouth.
To draw a true line on which to lay a tile,
hold a chalked string fixed
at one end of a room and whip
it hard against the cement floor.
With a blue grid, he shakes out
the sheets of unordered space, folds
them into squares and lays them end on end.
Under his knees, a room will become whole and clear.
by Gabeba Baderoon
from: _Matter 3_
publisher: Leigh Money and Emily Pedder, Sheffield