Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Let's do like this

Sometimes, an epiphany is one word.

And sometimes a nail is a marvelous thing.

This is the beginnings of a rough draft of an essay, scroll to the end of today to get y'rself a song:

My friend and I are walking and he’s talking to me about poetry. I’m listening. I’ve read a little bit of poetry, not really thinking about it much beyond what sounds nice to me. He’s telling me about a book he’s going to loan to me. It’s a one long poem, he says. But don’t read it too carefully, he says, it’s not meant to be read like that. It’s meant to be read straight through, beginning to end, without slowing down to consider the poet’s secret agenda. There is no secret agenda, he says, it’s all about the language. He tells me to read this book riding on the train or waiting for the bus. He tells me to read it when I won’t be tempted to get all scholarly about it. He tells me to just let the poetry be what it is and this way, he tells me, I will appreciate the poem for what it is.

We walk under some scaffolding. To our right is the road fenced away by criss-crossing metal bars. To our left is a wall of plywood to keep our eyes from seeing the progress of condos. It is night and the cold air of January is making the contrast between the black sky and the orange streetlights something like a comic book or a strange photograph not fully developed. Or, that could just be the nature of remembering. My eyes shift between looking at his jaw, a soft camel scarf not quite snug to his neck, and the road we are walking on. He has a carefully trimmed beard. The road is scattered with bits of paper, candy wrappers, and rocks of various sizes that create a connect-the-dots of our walk.

My friend is talking to me about poetry and my eyes move from the corner of his jaw to the road we are walking on. My eyes find, alone on the pavement, a sturdy iron nail. Iron? Or Steel? What are nails made out of anyway? (I found out later that nails are made of steel.) My eyes find this object. And I pick it up and I remark to my friend how lovely this nail is. It’s strange isn’t it? I ask him. The nail is about 3 inches long. One end looks like a push pin, going wide to narrow to a little bit wider. Then it is a long, typical nail for a couple of inches before finding it’s sharpest point via four steep angles. Angles to the end. A dangerous tip. Could cut, in the wrong hands, could kill. I hold it up for my friend to see a little bit better, it is night after all and we’re standing at the edge of a wall of construction, shadows everywhere. And tells me, It’s just a nail.

I slip the nail into my pocket and give it a little tap, as though I am some 19th century banker and I have just found a quarter. Vest pocket. Tap. Tap.

When I am home, still a little bit drunk from my evening spent drinking and commiserating with my friend, I pull the nail from my pocket and put it into a small glass dish where I keep my mother’s old broaches and various other small pieces of jewelry. Rings and pins shaped to look like flowers with cascading petals.

It occurs to me that the purpose of a nail is to hold together. To build and to mend what is broken. It’s a very important purpose, I think. A nail, especially one as strong as the nail in my jewelry dish, is key. The world is held together by strong, strange nails. And, I find, I feel bad for the nail. Its purpose is indispensable, but never appreciated.

The purpose of a nail is to be hit. Pounded into its purpose. Beat into being hidden. The full body of it buried in a board. And the smoothest, kindest edge of it painted over. Hidden. The function and the sacrifice of the nail ignored. It’s just a nail, he says, and goes on about this book of poetry. Just read it, he says. Don’t look too much into it. It’s all right there.

Hey, hows about some music?!

Shearwater is a band

I'm going to go drink some wine on cc's porch now.


bezdomnik said...

i really like your story about a nail. [deleted bad pun not worthy of your great story].

Player of words said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Player of words said...

right now my writing is all nails ... no plaster and plywood... but i love the way you saw the nail. dude, you know, you might be kinda deep sometimes ;-)

(btw ...i'm the deleted comment...i'm an idiot today)