Monday Poem

by Jim Culleny

I’ve done a number of things to make a living over the years, but my most protracted make-a-living venture has been as a carpenter. But I’ve not done that alone: without the right tools a carpenter’s as helpless as a musician without an axe. Tools are body’s extension, and mind’s.  Which brings me to my other, coincidental building project, assembling songs and poems. Some time ago, bringing the two together, I began a series of short poems built upon my relationship with tools. The first four are here:


1. Adze

I’ve never been a mathematician
physicist or statistician
but, as a carpenter who aspires
to be a word magician,
I can fill you in on certain facz
such as the paradoxical condition
in which, at least from Mesolithic times,
the framer’s friend, the adze, subtracz

2. Hammer

A hammer’s not a thing of glamor
until you feel its weight,
but when you grip an Estwing’s shank
and swing it up to bring it down
to drive a nail into a plank
you recognize its simple grace:
its elegant utility as whammer
and if your nail’s a driven flaw
you always have its graceful claw’s
corrective adjunct to your
curse and stammer

3. Spirit Level

A spirit level’s used to set things straight
with the plane of the horizon as in a beam
or plumb as with a stud to make sure
structure’s right by spirit

you breathe deep and easy and hold the level
so the spirit bubble floats in the small arc of a glass flask
dead center which if placed upon a joist would say,
this floor is level
being on the level
good way to be

4. Square

Beloved of a stairway crafter
or sawyer of a stud or joist
or cutter of a common rafter
that he will later lug and hoist
under sun or in a freeze —no matter

the square’s essential charge in being
is to prove all NINE-O  degreeing
so that structure’s straight and true,
with Pythagoras agreeing