“The Second Pass” by Taylor Mali

Taylor Mali


The first pass along the whetting stone
creates an edge too fine to last;
the second, more blunting pass
tempers the edge into usefulness.

Together we used to hone blades
so unutterably precise
tomatoes would slice themselves
open to expose their reddest flesh.

Later, in the restaurant’s kitchen,
when the head chef needed a knife,
screaming in French, he came to her
station and used one of hers.

She told me this with pride one night,
then put her hand on my chest
and cried stainless steel tears
I could not understand.

When she jumped from the window
and they searched the apartment,
they found in the bathroom a knife,
its edge unbloodied, as sharp as a razor.

And I keep thinking of the second pass,
how it sharpens as it dulls the working edge,
how the one has a real and necessary need
of the other to do what it does.

from The Whetting Stone
2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Taylor Mali: “In both of the books of poetry I published after Rebecca’s death I tried to include a few poems about her. But they were always so unlike the rest of the manuscript that they couldn’t stay in. I’ve known for a decade that all my poems about Rebecca would need to be published in a collection by themselves. The Whetting Stone is that collection.” (web)

Rattle Logo