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.