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The Basics of Building. The Poetry of Robert Morgan

By ROBERT MORGAN / December 3, 1993



Doorknobs

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The coolness of the porcelain

and metal thrills the hand. The knob

presses the most tender part of

the palm. Some are like bulbs that light

the touch and some are more like heads

of augers. But all are polished

apples offered as you approach

to be grasped and turned until

the bolt springs and the mechanism

swallows. Then with a little push

the barrier swings wide and new

rooms or the whole outside waits.

When you release the ball it spins

to rest, cool and fat as a period.

Sharpening a Saw

Any blunt rock can whet a knife

or even scythe blade just by

rubbing the edge at the right pitch,

coaching steel to bright and deadly

thinness, But only a lean hard

file will find the new edges on

a saw, each tooth with its own

attitude and faces to be

flattened, to be caressed to

biting definition. It is

the different angles of the hundred

teeth that make the blade cut fast,

the crystals brushed new and tilted

like little wedges that follow

each other and follow each other

to split the fibers going this

way and coming back, savoring

each crumb of dust, the work done by

prisms no bigger than a line of salt.

Working in the Rain

My father loved more than anything to

work outside in wet weather. Beginning

at daylight he'd go out in dripping brush

to mow or pull weeds for hog and chickens.

First his shoulders got damp and the drops from

his hat ran down his back. When even his

armpits were soaked he came in to dry out

by the fire, make coffee, read a little.

But if the rain continued he'd soon be

restless, and go out to sharpen tools in

the shed or carry wood in from the pile,

then open up a puddle to the drain,

working by steps back into the downpour.

I think he sought the privacy of rain,

the one time no one was likely to be

out and he was left to the intimacy

of drops touching every leaf and tree in

the woods and the easy muttering of

drip and runoff, the shine of pools behind

grass dams. He could not resist the long

ritual, the companionship and freedom

of falling weather, or even the cold

drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes

and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice

of shoes that earned a baking by the fires

and washed fatigue after the wandering

and loneliness in the country of rain.