Matthew is a poet from Central Kentucky whose works have appeared in various journals such as The Anxious Poets Society, The Russell Creek Review, and Pegasus. He views poetry as a means of seeking deepened understanding and appreciation of one’s relationships with language, the self, and the surrounding world.
Hanging Drywall With My Father
He takes his time, weighs the sand-smoothed handle,
fingers tasting hickory as they inch along the shaft
in search of a handhold worn by years of use.
A man with a hammer sees only nails, things to be destroyed
or perhaps built, beaten into rigidity.
So this house will hold together
in the midst of a storm.
My father could send a nail straight through the wood
in three swings or less, never missing.
They were too quick for me to see
but holding drywall against studs,
I counted the shocks sent through my spine
as the blows found their marks.
When the nailheads sank themselves into wood.
He’d whisper That’s perfect. That’ll hold
as if to dare thundercloud or lighting strike
to try their luck against this house
against the wrath of those callused hands.
Three or four panels in and he passes me the hammer.
Its handle long as the road to Canaan.
He holds the drywall while I measure the nail
his eyes burning with silent admonition.
Miss the nail and the plaster will crumble.
A whole panel could be wasted.
Build your shelter on stone, not sand.
The first swing is a silent Hail Mary.
Arm swinging blind, eyes closed
in plea to the god of hammers.
The second swing is more sure.
Hammer falls, bouncing
off the corner of the nailhead.
Drywall snow salts his boots beside me.
A third, a fourth, a fifth blow.
The nail, a helpless Esau
curls into the plaster.
He looks across my shoulder
takes the hammer again.
That’ll have to do.