Grand Pockets’s Blog

Genealogy, Family, Poetry and Peeves

Jesus Was A Carpenter


In mist of cold morning fog we wait,

Standing in mud from last night’s rain

And planks laid on bed of golden straw,

Rubbing hands to stay warm, talking

last night’s ballgame and packing a chaw.

Day begins when the master arrives

In work beat pickup truck; he steps out,

leather tool belt slung over his shoulder;

belt strong and thick as a razor strop;

all wear them, but his is much older.

Frugal with movements, seamlessly

drops belt to waist, ratchets pin in eye,

Seats it with imperceptible tug.

From truckbed grabs worm gear saw,

eyes each in turn and shrugs.

“Lets put er up boys!” He drawls in

languid baritone, setting off down

ribs of 2x12s with a sidewalk stroll

his feet finding the slender ribbons

as sailors weave with a sea roll.

We follow across planks onto joists,

orchestrated motion, each an instrument,

a screaming power saw, a whispering plane,

and a syncopation of hammer blows.

Radio plays country. Sun rises, cold wanes.

We ask questions. The lorekeeper

takes time to teach us his secrets,

laconic man with an artisan’s heart.

He demonstrates the right way, for

him the only way, to get the job done.

neath shadow of cap brim, rust brown

eyes take our measure, piercing each

of us in turn. He keeps us moving,

by noon walls are raised, corners braced.

We encircle him at lunch, like wagons

around a campfire.He jokes, eats pastrami

on rye and teaches between swallows:

“decimals to fractions multiply by 16”,

and “Measure twice, cut once”: He is

calling us to the religion of skill. After lunch

we catwalk rafter ribbing, spiders climbing

wooden webs. Figuring rafter angles and rakes,

We roll joists and lift and lap the intersects,

Surreptitiously watching him during breaks.

Younger men, less skilled, less proud,

eye him askance, hoping for a good word.

He moves less, expends less energy,

everything dovetails neatly into place –

the secret of craft: act after, think before.

We respect him because he taught us shame:

of an 1/8″ mistake, embarrassment of stud

scarred by hammermarks, a joist positioned by shim:

“Work well even when no one is looking”, he says.

Shortcuts taken by less proud men than him.

He squints in the sun, leather face being tanned,

lines around his eyes slowly being sculpted.

Pulling layouts he is intent on perfection,

Squaring sides and adding root of sum,

He has his hypotenuse, deftly rafter is cut.

lumber’s talking grain is poetry in his eyes:

“Tight and swirling corkscrew binds your

saw when cut” Can you hear its poem?

“Uniform rise upon the face, tomorrow’s

crown sweeps up with grace.”

We watch his squeeze-loose grip on hickory heft,

the pendulum fall of hammer and its swift rise again

to top of arc, a metronomic rhythm we never match.

Each of us wonders, will we ever be as good?

A dragonfly from the nearby pond alights, with

a child’s delight as if he has never seen such a thing,

he deftly pinches its wings in stubby fingers

and with a gentle toss releases it,

he sees beauty everywhere he lingers.

Our day is nearly run its course, sun lower, air cooler,

the parts of frame almost complete, intersected,

each peice of pine, each stone, each angle, line and pitch,

connected and measured and cut and cajoled,

a symphony of players, each with its own niche.

slinging clanging contraption of tools and leather

over his shoulder, he signals the day is over.

Those of us who love the trade will stay,

talk a while with bossman, for sheer pleasure

of listening to what a great builder has to say

putting tools away, wiping oilcloth across saws,

Scrubbing resin from circular blades, chasing burrs

from plane’s iron with small stone, later, lap and hone

until it slices curly shavings fine as tracing paper.

“You take care of a tool if you’re going to own it”.

Before we all leave, the craftsman has his final say:

“We erect a skeleton here, that other craftsman

hang their skills on, but, done it is still just a shell.

Then a family moves in, love joins labor,

and house becomes a home. Thats a job done well!”

You know he smiles, as we part for the day,

“Jesus was a carpenter,can you imagine that?”


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