The Hammer, the Saw and the Plane

‘Let’s sell off Grandpa’s tools then.

They should fetch quite a bit.

Collectors’ items, some of them.’

Grandma stood straight and stern in the doorway.

We had not heard her come.

‘Not one leaves this room as long as I live.

The hammer and the saw and the plane,

Put them back.

Put them all back on the rack again.

Put them back in their places, every one.

Put them back though their work is done.’

We hung them there on the rusted nails,

The hammer, the saw and the plane,

And all the well-kept tools he’d used,

Each one in their allotted space

Each one hanging in the place,

Where it had hung for sixty years.

Grandma smiled,

And for her we were no longer there,

In the old tool room.

‘He used the hammer so gently,

Each blow had just the strength

That was needed.

No more, no less,

And so the job was done.

He used that saw with rhythmic strokes,

Neither fast nor slow,

But following its own pace through the wood unforced

Even through the thickest plank.

No plugging in.

No electric whine.

Just touch and sinew.

The bradawls and gimlets,

Screwdrivers, drills and nail punches,

Leave them where they are.

They are all fatherless,

So unused to lying still

After years of movement and caress.’

One by one,

We put them back on the nails again,

And they hung there over the wooden bench.

Grandma smiled,

And we left her there,

Standing in the wood shavings,

Gently touching each remembered thing.