previous | next

The second day my hand still trembled from
the sickle. We see it now as attribute,
those ageing symbols’ symbol, death and work,
and like to overlook the thing itself,
bulb-handled in warm wood, the cursive blade
a darkened, runnelled metal, cheaply made
and left inside the old tin bath with saws,
fence staples, in the dust-black, padlocked shed
among the furniture and frames thrown out
of the old peoples’ version of a house,
the cobwebbed halter for their long-dead mule.
We want to make it moon and question mark,
cedilla of skeletal script, a lip,
but it is quite at ease with all this mess,
the afterlife of things and half-life of
their meanings: it’s accustomed to the edge
between the real and the irrelevant.
A little oil would help it sing out as
it's lifted from its bed; serrations, rust,
acknowledge its return to use, to light.
And all I did was cut the long dry grass
behind the outhouse where the washing line
plays out its yellow plastic smile. I took
their three foot nodding lengths in hand,
half baby fishing rods and half the shades
of ostrich feathers, and I hacked them once
or twice, and cut their shins and thistles' throats
until our towels could hang in peace.
And all the time the sickle silently
displayed its neatness, crooking in the strays
and never needing more than three light chops
at any head, and though I cut away
from my leg every time it whispered past
‘flesh of my edge, bone of my blade,’ and cut
until it was too easy to cut close,
and then I paused, and put the thing away.