Skip to main content

A sudden itch for woodcraft, I
head for the garage, take two
bead-board doors from a dusty
stack of kitchen-cupboard pieces
rescued from a garage sale,
the old spruce still hinged
to its stiles, to build
something new, something
useful, something worthy
of a summer day
                      I measure,
saw, drill, and rummage for more
scrap wood, the garage air
redolent with the sudden grace
of Christmas tree, the gift
of century-old spruce when cut.
For a top, I glue together
a pair of oak table leaves—
quarter-sawn with golden,
dancing ray flecks—long lost 
from their host table, salvaged
from a thrift store’s dark corner.
For a shelf, I take apart a faded
maple headboard, cut one board
to length, and nail it into place.
After some sanding, the spruce,
oak, and maple come together
as a new cabinet. Coats of paint
and linseed oil later, and few
could imagine the various woods
and forests from which this piece
has grown, much less the craft
of those first works.
                                    Who would
ever consider all the homes hand-
crafted into my new cabinet’s tale?
A summer’s canning jars that filled
those first cupboards—tomatoes,
beans, peppers—fresh from the
family garden out back. The feasts
served on that first table, so full
they called for the extra leaves
from the hall closet. The sleep,
the love, the new life nurtured
in that first bed.  And what about
the family room this cabinet
will likely land in? A flat screen
lit on top facing a couple gathered
for the evening news, images from
our southern border in high def:
crying siblings soothe each other
in cages; agonized mothers
weep over lost children; father
and daughter lie face-down,
side by side on our shore
of the Rio Grande,
arms entwined,
drowned.
                  Time was, most
Americans could muster
imagination enough to see
how a refugee’s courage could
complement a citizen’s kindness,
how both, given a fair chance,
could be crafted together
into something new, something
useful, something worthy
of a summer day.

Mark Hiskes

Mark Hiskes teaches English at Holland Christian High School. In 2019 he published a collection of poems, Standing With Alyosha (Dos Madres Press). He has published poems and other writing in The Christian Century, Sojourners, The Banner, The Church Herald, and other journals. He published a spiritual autobiography, "Putting Sigsbee Street to Rest" in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought (April 1997).  He is married to Cindy Hiskes and attends Third Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan.

Leave a Reply