Elegy for a Craftsman

by John W. Hoy

The time is right
To take some stock
To measure and assess stores of
Life’s dust mites: bent tacks, plies of veneer,
Old corks, pennies, rolls of canvas,
Empty cans and jars, loose metaphors, etc.
So I walk about from
Room to room to room
Geography I ought to
Knew so well and count the
Stuff that Michael passed my way.
His eyes could always
Recognize the waifs
To fit my style of seeing:
Poems, gull winged books, jokes.

Some gems were not so much
I have to note a really awful coat,
Howling of nonspecific British mammals,
Houndstooth with old, echoing brogues,
And deep pockets of promise,
The perfect size to sound with novels, or The
Café Review, and so on, and Michael
Saw the ugly thing, and thought of me.

Almost old men with ancient memories
Too often he and I, we yammered,
Of far off hamlets smoke of peat
Drifting up from shallow hearths,
Our chat of pubs and ordinary sports
Like him and friends and me who wore those
Draping, garish, mothy tweeds.
Once, he lofted from his
Handy shelf an insulator
Antique porcelain to burnish tempered steel
And dropped it in my grasp
To sharpen woodshaving tales:
Warmth of hemlock, birch
And pine, and preparation,
Close work, dust and time.

I recall we stood in hallways.
Tools of trades in hands so wise
He a measure always near, and
I clutching brilliant classroom exercise
Aiming toward proliferation
(A page no doubt I should have
Measured twice before I cut
From the printer)
We talked and watched a world
Holding tight to acceleration, toward
Comedy, was it, Michael?
Absurdity?
Faster, faster toward today.

I scope and measure now the hall,
Looking for his presence, and a
Foggy essence
Seems to stand there still,
Poem in hand, ethereal.
I somehow bring to focus
A phrase or two, or even
Pages, single words, but also,
Sight of quiet both typical and odd
A listening quiet, but more so
His voice gone
To the next work order.