While he was giving Icarus these instructions on how to fly, Daedalus was at the same time fastening the novel wings on his son’s shoulders. As he worked and talked the old man’s cheeks were wet with tears, and his fatherly affection made his hands tremble.
--The Metamorphoses of Ovid
In making of Stair-cases, (the Ancients) recommend the making of the Steps in odd Numbers, and especially in their
--Leon Battista Alberti, Book I, Chap. XIII
At the top of the helical slide above the Sternheimer pool at the Community Center where we swim, there is a bar at chest level from which to sling yourself into the wash. The enamel on the left side has been worn to bare metal from the ring fingers of countless mommies and daddies. Climbing the stairs, pausing to wave from the top. I limit friction to my heels and my shoulders, so that by the third rotation, I feel velocity in my back before the water. I always wish for two more turns in the auger, I always worry about kids in the deep end.
I go under for as long as I can; skimming the bottom, looking back above to the lights. The water is perfectly blue and I am near blind in it. Curved cement and Atlantean tile; I am banished Prince Namor, alone in the abyss. Whatever music plays in my head, breathes there from years below. I can stretch my limbs, coil and unraveling, I can swim. Outcast, rebellion, twisting, elongated. This building with a pool in its heart has a city block worth of names of builders, portraits of financiers, their testament to architecture. No masons names, no Mexican sheetrock hangers, no tile-setters, no carpenters.
Damn the names of carpenters. I can swim.
If Larry was right and the ankle of a horse
Is holy, then what about my carpenter’s wrist, fatigued
By three weeks of the nail gun? Reinforced in its black
Brace against the weight of the drill, the weight of the saw.
The song the saw sings. The sheetrock goes up.
It’s not as bad as
Of tendonitis creeping up my elbow, my shoulder.
Months of metal studs and sheetrock. The length
Of my arm encased in lycra and velcro.
There are novels of pain to be told, but this
Is not one of them. I drive nails and screws,
Thousands. I dream of the bones of the wrist,
My wife. I dream of cowboy music.
The river of music that makes up a life.
then shank-spiraled, carries chipwood up and out.
It is this upthread that carries, that drives itself.
The posthole digger’s two sets of handles
jolt and twist, will knock you and the boss,
you hold on, rib-bruised, and its
big eight-inch auger dropped
center down bores, relentless.
It threads itself through dirt towards devil
or China both, like Akhilles, dirt spilling
over itself at hole mouth, and both hands
to hold onto this Akhil.
The cigarette burns down and this sound of
perfect rage burns two fingers.
The most pure sound of God
lives in feedback. The sound
Akhil of perfect metal bends
and he obliterates all sound.
The Akhil hand, the Akhil roaming death
and this complete Akhilles of hate
unto twisting grain, slid down
from silo, augered through feed sheds,
spread out to thine bovine feed
and thus fed to chop.
This Akhilles shines so bright as to blind.
Thus He, Achilles grown greentall
and strong, grown twin bar-strung
and wild of carwreck, grown paired rage
of wire-strung feedback: sound, strung,
is created, and caught in the machine
which bore it, is folded again unto
its system, and thus, is born again as pure noise.
The purest noise of sound and sound
and most pure form of against. None so ever welcomed
the fate of hell and so fuckall of hell against
while his boots filling with blood, said
“I was born to this shore,
and knew neither Greece nor Helen,
and raised unto blood plain, birthed
only for young bones in blood-sand,
I yearn for nothing else than to
shine tenderfoot, ankle-wise and tear
through this now, or some other now
and tear God from Heaven if I could.”
--written Fall, 2000
Beowulf Fights Grendel
& I ate it. I was out at the truck, smoking. He was making a delivery, two doors down and regarded me. I had my belt on, obviously working on the place, besides, who doesn’t love a working man? He pulled up and rolled down the window. I said, “Hidee.” He replied, “I got two dougnuts I couldn’t finish. You want ‘em? I got ‘em just this morning from Peggy Ann’s.” Or some such fuckin place. I said, “Sure” thanked him and he drove off. They were in a nice white box, about two inches tall and shone in the sun, glazy.
I got home at lunch with my stomach so tied in knots I could barely walk. I climbed into bed with my wife and the baby, who were lying down for nap.
“See that’s the difference between you and me," she said, "I would never eat food given to me by a stranger.” Baby May poked me in the eye and said, "Eyes?"
“I thought it would be bad karma to refuse the proffered donut. He seemed like a very nice man.” I said.
“You know there’s nothing good about doughnuts anyway.” She said. I said I’d have to think about that.
I had eaten fried shrimp four days straight last weekend at my parents place in
The residue smell of yesterday’s tiger balm across my shoulders, blood vessels broken above my pelvis from the tool belt.
Beowulf at the tunnel, his layer of mail.
My thin layer of white thermal to cover me, the blue gray of the morning filling these rooms.
The smoke from my cigarette. Beowulf on the platform, Grendel in the tunnel.
The clear water running between the tracks, the slime billowing like ladies hair.
Calluses across my hands, calluses on my feet, my hips.
Denim or canvas to cover the whole of me, the twenty eyelets to lash each boot.
The sword point of Beowulf blunt against concrete.
The ghost train with windows blacked out, work train filled with tools, slows into the station.
Leathery Grendel spread like a spider across the top of the train.
The red weight, the ox blood of the toolbelt. Grendel descending.
The terrible saw that lengthens my arm, the sinew and muscle that makes up my arm. The two rows of eight bones that make up my wrist.
Beowulf and Grendel collide against one another.
Beowulf and Grendel colliding.
Last week, pulling base molding, I found a three-by-three picture from the previous generation. Not dog-eared or faded, a mother holding a small boy over a cake with two candles. Both in red. Somebody’s grandpa strolling in from the back room, in a