“You’ll need a hammer and a Stanley knife,
these screws, five-eighths nails, this vice,
some Allen keys, a wrench, a tube of wood glue.”

Young and bored, obsessed with girls, the muse
and drowning in verse, I looked on
dumbly as Dad’s hands dropped each item

in a wooden box, their echo like earth
shoveled in a pit. Decades later, my hands
grasp that hammer to drive a nail, clumsy

but true, through two planks. Time has changed
the box but not the tools: Dad’s words
thud in my mind as my son watches me

rebuild our front steps for him to sit on.
My father’s rough-hewn wisdom
feels like fair game now, preparation

for the tricky jobs I’ve had to face
since we put him in the ground. Gone, gone
but not just not forgotten – he lives on

in each nail struck, spirit level with my son
as his tiny feet trip slowly up the steps:
These tools will be his when my work is done.

The author of six books of poems, James W. Wood’s work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia. His 2011 thriller Stealing Fire was selected for the Rome Film Festival. He writes about books and music for newspapers from a rock in the Pacific, where he lives with wife, son and dog. Set sail to find him: @James_W_Wood.

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