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Lessons in Carpentry


Joe Gross

cocoa-crimson sawdust
christens my soft hands

while father mutters
cantilever incantations,

hands rough as if
they had walked

with water when it
first resolved to rain:

something of burnt
umber boyhoods

& the boughs
of the last yew

& of dividing rot
from rumination

& of some messenger
windborne & wingless

in the ictus of memory
where toil & transience,

melting, overmix.
the lumber on my

shoulder is a tonnage
heavier than what

swallowed Jonah
& pulling like the tide

till, muscles bolt-steady
& matchstick-thin,

I fit the crosspiece into the upright post;

go to bed without
praying for any

gainful waking,
trying to sleep off

some hurt that needs
the healing hold

of older hands still,
spat out of dreams

awash in some

lightness rockier
than a receding reef,

told to swim but not
taught to tame the undertow.

Joe Gross is a Flushing-based poet, translator, and warehouse runner. He holds an MFA from Queens College, CUNY, where he was co-editor at Armstrong Literary. His work has appeared in Killing the Buddha, Twin Pies Literary, and VIA, and you can find him on Twitter @komradekapybara.

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