When he passed away, I searched the house
for traces of him I hoped would still be there:
a Franciscan scapular of cotton string he wore
around his waist, a ring fort that would keep him safe,
his watch, his favourite tie, his rosary and the tiny
prayer book with Jesus pointing to His heart,
still in his inside pocket, though no heart beats.
He loved to work with wood and I was looking
for some small piece he made or one of his
carpenter’s tools, that I might find him in again.
Then the stair hole offered up his wooden plane,
something I had seen him work with
and remembered sitting beneath his makeshift
bench as shavings fell like snowflakes
to the floor. Handmade from Irish beech,
embraced by his callused palms a thousand times,
skin and wood worn to a sheen. Out of the dust and dark
the memories emerge, out of the rings of time they leap
from this seasoned beech; not just a keepsake,
its like was used in Egypt before Noah built the Ark.
And I’m reminded of Rodin’s unfinished ‘La Pensée,’
a woman’s head on a granite slab whose eyes in stone
must surely capture the hardest heart;
like something held so often captured mine.