The Sharpener’s Song

A bridge spanned the vast brownfield

where a long-gone steel mill used to line

hundreds of glowing ingots for cooling.

At night the red glow filled the sky like

Hell’s own football stadium.

It was over this field, in seventh grade, that I’d dreamed I died.

In the dream, I was flying above the rows and rows of red-orange bundles;

strange because at that age, I had never been in a plane.

But there I was in a plane losing altitude and crashing into the black river beyond the field.

I remember the impact, the cold water, the darkness.

Then, by some intervention in the way of things that was never explained,

I was returned to life for three days.

I went home. Saw my Mom, she was young then.

Did the dishes after breakfast as I had returned in the morning.

Went around the block and bought some second-hand comic books for a nickel.

Then later picked up the dry cleaning from across the street.

I was bored. Couldn’t figure out what to do next with three extra days of life.

This is what I dreamed as a twelve-year-old.

So later that day, I reported to a secret place and returned to the darkness.

I thought of that dream and of the sharpener who came

Bumping down the alley ringing

a bell on his pushcart, laden with grinding wheels and stones.

Stroke after stroke after stroke, humming, his squinting eyes alive,

absorbed in the task-the life-of each blade.

I asked him once, on tiptoes to see his face in the shadows of his beaten hat,

what was the song?

He smiled-a gold tooth next to no tooth beside a gap

that his tongue filled as he worked.

He handed me the scissors in exchange for the coins

my gramma had entrusted to me and shuffled on.

Still humming.

Maybe if I had an axe or hatchet, even a few decent knives,

I could sharpen them. That would be something.

Perhaps another sandwich or

a bourbon with a single ice cube would be in order.

And not caring that a baby bunny is eating the zinnias.

But I’ll still throw a rotten tomato at him.

And miss.

And feel the twinge in my shoulder.

 

© TDR – 2019

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