- The Vise
I am holding this vise,
feeling its heft, its solid weight cool
in my hand. Its notches align like little teeth,
a perfect grip whenever the thin
lever turns right.
In 1963, the year he turned sixty,
my father clamped the vise
to his workbench in Billings. I can see him lock in
a marred table leg wrapped with sheeting, hear the click
of the lever he wound, see the light flinch
between the jaws. He knew every grain
as intimately as kin, tended
each scar with healing plane or pumice.
Now the northern ground
clamps him tight, scarred as ancient wood.
When he died, the vise passed to me,
and I took it home as a reminder
of all the good he did.
Now my father sleeps under an iron marker,
Now he mends the light and wind, alone at a table of clouds.
2.Waltzing With My Mother
Our city’s body lay between white flannel sheets,
pulled up last night past its chin,
over its flaccid face.
The soft weave of snow pressed its weight
close to every contour. Truckers,
running late, filled the frozen diners all across our state.
Now a few slow skaters sweep around the rimed ponds.
The whole place has shrugged off business
and fallen fast asleep.
On this sort of day we laid to rest
my mother, dressed in rose. Wind
froze the sleets of grief to our cheeks.
After that there were years
when the snows didn’t come,
the roads were always open,
ponds shrank: The sleep of our mother
unhurried beneath its sheet of silts.
Remember her now, in this gauzy snow,
head tilted, one eye open, perhaps dreaming
of “The Skater’s Waltz” on a placid white pond,
her blades flashing in perfect, three-quarter time.