Love Song: I and Thou
Nothing is plumb, level or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh, I spat rage’s nails
into the frame-up of my work:
it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it, I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can’t do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.
I’m right now listening to Peter Sagel (12/26/2003) talk about this poem and his story of meeting this poem is great. Plus you get to hear Alan Dugan reciting it.
And now that I’ve heard him read his poem, I have to say that I prefer the way I recite it.
I think I squealed with glee when I first read this poem. For a literal standpoint, I am often mid-project, working a bit beyond my abilities, and somewhat frustrated. I’ve got three unfinished projects going–or rather stopped–right now. I’ve often found myself “drunk on my prime whisky: rage” and feeling rather martyrish. It’s at this point that Matt usually talks me down, or peps me up, if that’s what the situation calls for. I think every Amish-type, project person needs a counterpart to keep them going, or resting, if need be.
I’ve never been a fan of the big, extravagant wedding, because I think the vows that really matter are the ones that are said repeatedly in small ways over a long period of time. I believe that helping with projects, whether physically or emotionally is one way that makes a couple solid and actually married.