“Sawdust” by Judith Tate O’Brien

Judith Tate O’Brien


There are many ways to kneel
and kiss the earth

At his workbench, my Catholic husband
becomes a Buddhist practicing mindfulness.
As if entranced, he attends the hammer’s
rhythmic up-and-down. He feeds the planer
a plank of cedar. Beside a Folger’s coffee
can of nails on the windowsill, the clock
ticks the present tense: is, is, is. When he
walks to the table saw, he moves deliberately
like an egret stepping into its own watery
reflection. There he contemplates the sawness
of saw. He doesn’t brush off the sawdust
film falling all over him like a coat of serenity.
Sometimes he makes a rocking cradle,
sometimes a porch swing for us to sit in.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004


Judith Tate O’Brien: “When I was in 10th grade, the visiting Catholic School Superintendent, a stern priest, recited Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven, stepping the cadence across our classroom floor—and I was moved to tears. To think that language could soften so hard a man! I became a convert to poetry. That’s why I write.”

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