Had you been born in the Middle Ages,
you probably would have been a blacksmith,
my eye doctor tells me,
while I try to make sense of the fuzz in everything.
Lenses click delicate
in and out of the phoropter;
Better with one here, or two?
And the click is a clang, and the delicate harsh,
and I’m hammering white-hot, misshapen metal,
spark showers like geysers, embers cooling
in the dirt. Here I find a me
before the science of the corrective lens,
brow sweat never dry, face streaked with soot,
flexing burn-scarred hands, hunched before the forge.
Each turn on the anvil fashions an edge
still out of focus, trusted only by its heft,
its shape, its glow. A plunge into slack tub,
submerge, smoke of the rapid cool, and out again,
a sheen like the gloss of fresh ink.
Were I to write him a letter
to mail through time and circumstance—
this might be its salutation,
though I would compose it in the old way:
a wisp of quill tucked between forefinger and thumb,
faint scratch against parchment, measured dips to inkwell.
Letter finished, I would look out the window,
maybe to watch robins splash and flutter in a birdbath,
maybe to see something else entirely,
but look! My writing arm—sprawled
across the still-drying script, lifted away, rotated,
a helix of black traced over the veins.
In the waiting room of a clinic, Minneapolis, MN
October 22, 2014
Oil on Panel - 1910