Saturday, October 31, 2009

A poem by Norah Pollard

The Sum of Man

by Norah Pollard

In autumn,
facing the end of his life,
he moved in with me.
We piled his belongings—
his army-issue boots, knife magazines,
Steely Dan tapes, his grinder, drill press,
sanders, belts and hacksaws—
in a heap all over the living room floor.
For two weeks he walked around the mess.

One night he stood looking down at it all
and said: "The sum total of my existence."
Emptiness in his voice.

Soon after, as if the sum total
needed to be expanded, he began to place
things around in the closets and spaces I'd
cleared for him, and when he'd finished
setting up his workshop in the cellar, he said,
"I should make as many knives as I can,"
and he began to work.

The months plowed on through a cold winter.
In the evenings, we'd share supper, some tale
of family, some laughs, perhaps a walk in the snow.
Then he'd nip back down into the cellar's keep
To saw and grind and polish,
creating his beautiful knives
until he grew too weak to work.
But still he'd slip down to stand at his workbench
and touch his woods
and run his hand over his lathe.

One night he came up from the cellar
and stood in the kitchen's warmth
and, shifting his weight
from one foot to the other, said,
"I love my workshop."
Then he went up to bed.

He's gone now.
It's spring. It's been raining for weeks.
I go down to his shop and stand in the dust
of ground steel and shavings of wood.
I think on how he'd speak of his dying, so
easily, offhandedly, as if it were
a coming anniversary or
an appointment with the moon.
I touch his leather apron, folded for all time,
and his glasses set upon his work gloves.
I take up an unfinished knife and test its heft,
and feel as well the heft of my grief for
this man, this brother I loved,
the whole of him so much greater
than the sum of his existence.

"The Sum of Man" by Norah Pollard, from Death & Rapture in the Animal Kingdom. © Antrim House, 2009.

Note: I don't have permission to show this wonderful poem, and I don't even know how to ask for permission. Norah, if you or your publisher speak up, I'll immediately remove this post. But in the meanwhile, let's appreciate this fine evocation of the heart of a craftsman. You can read some more samples of Norah Pollard's work - and purchase her books - at Antrim House Books.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reading at Sullivan's Pub

I'll be reading tonight at Sullivan's Pub in La Honda, starting about 6:30 pm.

Last month we had some new talent.

The weapons policy was in effect.

And the dress code, of course, was strictly enforced.
Iomega MiniMax Hard Drive, FireWire 400/USB 2.0, 1TB - 33957

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


You can hear a new interview of me by a nice lady at I'm on the first 8 minutes of the show, talk a little about my background and about the making of Babcock.


It warms my heart to learn that there are people out there who collect bricks. Funky, basic bricks, among the foundation of our history, uncelebrated, essential. Here's one person I just learned about, courtesy of the fascinating St. Louis Mosaic blog: a web page by Scott K. Williams called

"Underground Coal and Clay Mines in the City of St. Louis"

and here's a sample:
The internet never ceases to amaze me. A year ago when I was writing about Limey Kay, I couldn't find much about bricks when I googled. Now I find amazing stuff. How about, for example, which is focused on the Hudson Valley:
Or how about the American Brick Collection of the National Building Museum:
More later. I've got some browsing to do...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brick Blog!

If you like brickwork, and if you enjoyed one or another of my posts on the subject, I recommend this wonderful blog: St. Louis Mosaic.

As for my readers, if I have any, I apologize for the lapse in posting lately. We've had serious health issues in our family and have seen quite enough of Stanford Hospital for a long while. My wife is now fine (biopsy benign!) and I am slowly mending from various bodily insults. Enough said.