“Gouge, Adze, Rasp, Hammer” by Chris Forhan
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Gouge, Adze, Rasp, Hammer
So this is what it's like when love leaves, and one is disappointed that the body and mind continue to exist, exacting payment from each other, engaging in stale rituals of desire, and it would seem the best use of one's time is not to stand for hours outside her darkened house, drenched and chilled, blinking into the slanting rain. So this is what it's like to have to practice amiability and learn to say the orchard looks grand this evening as the sun slips behind scumbled clouds and the pears, mellowed to a golden-green, glow like flames among the boughs. It is now one claims there is comfort in the constancy of nature, in the wind's way of snatching dogwood blossoms from their branches, scattering them in the dirt, in the slug's sure, slow arrival to nowhere. It is now one makes a show of praise for the lilac that strains so hard to win attention to its sweet inscrutability, when one admires instead the lowly gouge, adze, rasp, hammer-- fire-forged, blunt-syllabled things, unthought-of until a need exists: a groove chiseled to a fixed width, a roof sloped just so. It is now one knows what it is to envy the rivet, wrench, vise -- whatever works unburdened by memory and sight, while high above the damp fields flocks of swallows roil and dip, and streams churn, thick with leaping salmon, and the bee advances on the rose.
Originally published in New England Review
Volume 21, Number 4, Fall 2000
Copyright 2000 by Chris Forhan.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of New England Review/Middlebury College. Copyright 2000 by Chris Forhan. For further permissions information, contact Jodee Rubins, Managing Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Poet
Chris Forhan (1959- ) grew up in Seattle, Washington. He earned an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia. He is the author of four poetry collections, including Ransack and Dance: Poems (Silver Birch Press, 2013).
Learn more about Chris Forhan at The Poetry Foundation.