Stan Sanvel Rubin’s poems appeared recently in Galway Review, Red Wheelbarrow Review, 8 Poems, Change 7, and One Art, and in journals including Agni, Georgia Review, Poetry Northwest, Kenyon Review and One, plus two 2019 anthologies, the 25th Anniversary of Atlanta Review and Nautilus Book Award winner, For Love of Orca. He’s published four full collections, including There. Here (Lost Horse Press) and Hidden Sequel, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. He lives on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
for my grandfather
His leather thumbs popped metal caps from bottles
yet his hands did the work of precision,
carefully opening the possibilities of wood
to take a shape we desire
despite wood’s hardness, despite
the tendency of all things to resist us
the way his tools resisted me,
my clumsy touch.
Nevertheless, he gifted me with hammers, chisels,
saws I looked at fearfully like sharks in a story.
He tried to teach me
how tape measure and T-square can make shapes true,
how the green liquid trapped in the eye of the level
is a prophet of certainty,
if one can only learn to read it right,
the way he did.
He said little, knowing little
of my language,
bookish American schoolboy
who dreamed of being a sports star yet couldn’t see the difference
a sixteenth or thirty-second makes in everything.
He grunted approval when things worked,
grunted disapproval when they didn’t and went on.
A craftsman never accepts imperfection as final.
Standing next to him in the noisy garage,
reeking of cigarettes that finally killed him,
I covered my ears when the table saw growled
and he pushed me back from the threat of the blade.