Workmanship

Thanks to the Connecticut Poetry Society for posting my poem “Building a House” in their “members’ poems” link (see menu bar under “MORE”). You’ll also find tributes and contest information. Join today and help support the written and spoken word.

 

Building a House
by Amy Nawrocki

On our usual walks, mud gushing
into hiking boots and creeks humming
in quiet trickles, we stop to marvel
at beavers’ work: trees taken down
by fierce teeth, graveyards of stumps
constructed like missile heads. I think:
what careful precision there is in the shreds
of bark wisped in circular piles.
While no clear path is laid to water,
we know they are building dams–
secret tunnels under the silted lake.
There is no doubt—this is work.

Swimmers always, one beaver, intent
on warning us away, slaps the water
with his tail. Instinct and survival
feed his business, not vanity
the way we piece together a room.
Unable to fathom the carefulness, the absolute
technicality of such workmanship, I tell you
how humble I feel, too dumbfounded to believe
these little creatures and their craft. You hold
out your hands to show me how big a beaver is–
bigger than I think—and we carry on
down the path into the car and back
to the house we have built together.

As our house begins to fail,
tiny spaces crack the floor and stairways
and break down the fiber of wood.
When the insulation begins to peel away,
we fight, busy as beavers, to keep it
together. We grit our teeth, burrow
into walls, and cart the hard parts away
with jagged teeth and leather tails.

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