Building the House

            “A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman.”
            —Wallace Stevens

With each day, I feel more
the weight of what must be said.
The sentences no poem has touched.
The joy and strife buried in the ground
like coal, and those who go down
have come up choking.

So I draw a steaming bath
and sink in, and the dying begins
and beside me, of course, the pen.
The blank paper. The pages I will write
that will set things straight, I think:
this unnamed hunger, this yearning

but instead, I think of hammers.
The sound of hammers, and the haiku
about the sound of hammers
quickening towards dusk,
how as daylight fades
blue to red to blue again

only darker this time, gliding down streets
over the lawns and rooftops
of some small town, a group of carpenters
in their singular sound of hammers
are beginning to hurry,
hoping with the final guise of light

to finish their work. So I take my pen
but all I hear are the hammers again,
the slack slack of nails
sinking into the wet musky smell
of opening pine. So much so
that as the day’s water drains, I rise

and am nameless, a hired hand
in a dirty shirt
blued by the thickness of twilight,
methodically focusing
his eyes and his worn fingers
and the swing of wrist and hammer

on the perfect house of his mind:
what he is building for someone else
but where he has stood each night,
in silence, running his hands
up and down the unfinished walls
like a lover, admiring the curves

of straight boards
and the serendipity of nails
raising from the foundation
the walls, the rooms,
and a rooftop
under the quiet, darkening sky.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Ink Pot.

Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy series and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, Brevity, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many other journals. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit

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