Ars Poetica

In your uncle’s workshop by Havana Bay,
Your pudgy hands, stubby fingers turning
Lithe with wood, cloth, springs, bone, coir,
Your life a reverence to sawdust and burl
As you labored each day in the heat and the light,
Standing on a plank jacked up by bricks,
A ring of tools cuffed to your small wrist,
Your palms and soles callused to stone
As you fluted gadroons, flounced damask,
Beat down unruly tacks to martial rivets.
                                                        O padre mío,
I learned to craft words watching you sew
With the finest thread and not leave a trace—
To be patient, steadfast, reverent in my work.
Don’t dawdle, don’t waste, you’d say, but save
What you can’t use today for another day:
A scrap of cloth, a stray idea, an orphan verse.
gazed in wonder as you made the bucksaw
Sway like a violin’s bow against strident wood,
How you ironed wrinkled linen to vellum,
Or straightened the crookedest of nails
Because anything can be fixed. Praise you,
Papá, my poet of hammer, needle, and shears.

Copyright © 2019 Orlando Ricardo Menes. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2019.