The Deck by Yusef Komunyakaa

April 25, 2008

I have almost nailed my left thumb to the 2 x 4 brace that holds the deck together. This Saturday morning in June, I have sawed 2 x 6s, T-squared and leveled everything with three bubbles sealed in green glass, and now the sweat on my tongue tastes like what I am. I know I’m alone, using leverage to swing the long boards into place, but at times it seems as if there are two of us working side by side like old lovers guessing each other’s moves.

This hammer is the only thing I own of yours, and it makes me feel I have carpentered for years. Even the crooked nails are going in straight. The handsaw glides through grease. The toenailed stubs hold. The deck has risen up around me, and now it’s strong enough to support my weight, to not sway with this old, silly, wrong-footed dance I’m about to throw my whole body into.

Plumbed from sky to ground, this morning’s work can take nearly anything! With so much uproar and punishment, footwork and euphoria, I’m almost happy this Saturday.

I walk back inside and here you are. Plain and simple as the sunlight on the tools outside. Daddy, if you’d come back a week ago, or day before yesterday, I would have been ready to sit down and have a long talk with you. There were things I wanted to say. So many questions I wanted to ask, but now they’ve been answered with as much salt and truth as we can expect from the living.


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