Their Father's Tools

The neighbor's boys out back

with their father's tools,

a two-by-four, a pile of scrap

and a few discarded fence poles.

Claw hammer and ripsaw,

crow bar, vice grips, rasp and awl,

spread around them on the lawn.

One takes a planer to the weathered wood,

skins a few pale curlicues,

attention wanes, selects another tool.

The smaller boy bludgeons tattoos

with a ball-peen, the air resounding

with the heartwood drum beat.

Soon a third appears, hefts

a chisel and a five-pound sledge,

and the trio works on industriously.

At first, I was thinking: totem pole,

like the Tlingit in their social studies text.

Benches, perhaps, or even mock cannon

to outfit their rickety tree house/fort.

But now it's clear what the boys are making:

kindling, sawdust, noise.

Earnest and tireless, they labor

beside their mother's flower bed,

beheading the occasional iris

with a careless backswing.

All afternoon they chop, rip, pound, and gouge,

turning something into nothing.

From my desk, I study their progress,

this fraternity of zealous devastation,

and think: I was once one of them.

I struggle to remember when.

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