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THE BIRD-CARVER

Someday my son Jeffrey
may learn from Walter
how to use the knives and saws,
the fine sandpapers, learn to choose
his wood from the cedar
and basswood blocks
on the cellar floor. Today,
Walter shows him how the grain
is tight and straight clear through
and doesn't crush like balsa
but cleanly cuts beneath the blade.
"After a while," he says,
"a carver feels, in a good block
of wood, a flutter, like there's
something inside that wants
to be something else."
Jeffrey admires the killdeer,
nuthatch, and grebe. He picks up
a loon and hears a rattle.
"A penny," Walter explains.
"I hollow the bird so the seams
don't warp as the wood
grows old and dries.
And in the hollow I put a penny
so a hundred years from now
an x-ray can prove how old
the bird could be and that it's mine."
He shows how all birds' wings
are feathered the same,
in groups of ten, how tail feathers
even out except on certain eccentric
ducks that carry six on one side,
seven the other. He hands to my son
the little wood-duck he plainly loves
more than all the rest.
When we leave, we stop to say
good-bye on the narrow boarded walk
surrounded by beds of marigolds.
Late afternoon has chosen
my son to light upon,
and I want to say,
"Look,Walter. See how the grain
of him is fine."



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