Our birthdays were two days apart; we were distant Gemini. I was always cheery and you were gloomy like An overcoat of mastic. Uncle Ed told me you used To joke; you were your employees’ sap and heartwood.
I wish I had known the non-acrid you, the unfurrowed Brow of your impossible face that I grew reluctant to read. I wish I had played with those aging knuckles and callused Hands that shaped happiness and pain. Presidents sat on
Your chairs, signed contracts on your desks, and hung their Vests inside your flawless mahogany armoires. You were History. In the 1950s, you were among the top five carpenters In the country & commanded two hundred employees, until
A whirlwind swept in as dictator a man you once denied A seat. Memories of the past went foxhunting. You were high-yellow & successful, his brand of Noirisme Was sawdust in the people’s eyes. It was 1957.
By the time I met you, the workmen were long gone And you had been hauled off to the penitentiary. A short stay, Powerful clients pried open the system and implored you to Make a chair. A signatory cane cabriolet armchair for the Doc.
We laughed at how tough you were with your six-foot thin frame. I remember you smelling of wood- at times pine, cedar, mahogany. At other times, it was the scent of glue, red chestnut. With you, the barnyard of my childhood vanished as idleness was
Mutinous. A man’s life ought to be upright and dignified. Poets And politicians were blurry. My father was a poet who loved Politics and couldn’t use tools the way you did. You were cynical And the dictator’s spectacle chiseled your bliss to the bones.
If you had known of my compact to poetry, that I never inherited The clamoring gift of turning poles into smooth tapering shafts, My creativity would have been suffocated in a whirlwind of sawdust. To you, hands were not made to construct stanzas.
Warm touches only for finished banisters & fluted dowels. I used to watch your hands run blades over planks, curled Shavings flipping under the motion of your brawny arms. They formed an ocean of golden waves engulfing your feet.
Now, I know why you used to quip, shut off the radio before Duvalier blared. You preferred the cascading of sweat on your brow As you measured your joints to fit frames. Some of your poet friends Vanished while trying to unveil the sun in metered forms.
-- Patrick Sylvainis a poet, social and literary critic, and photographer. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Published in several creative anthologies, journals, and reviews. Sylvain has degrees from the University of Massachusetts (B.A.), Harvard University (Ed.M.); and Boston University (MFA). Sylvain is on faculty at Brown University’s Africana Studies. Sylvain is also the Shirle Dorothy Robbins Creative Writing Prize Fellow at Brandeis University. Sylvain’s poetry chapbook, Underworlds, is published by Central Square Press (2018).