Erica Jong

(26 March 1942 / New York City)

Good Carpenters - Poem by Erica Jong

I mourn a dead friend, like myself, a good carpenter.
-Pablo Neruda about César Vallejo

I looked at the book.
'It will stand,' I thought.
Not a palace
built by a newspaper czar,
nor a mud hovel
that the sea will soften,
but a good house of words
near the sea
with everything plumb.
That is the most I can ask.

I have cut the wood myself
from my own forests,
I have sanded it smooth
with the grain.
I have left knotholes
for the muse to whistle through
-old siren that she is.

At least the roof does not leak.
& the fireplace is small
but it draws.
The wind whips the house
but it stands.
& the waves lick
the pilings
with their tongues
but at least they do not suck me
out to sea.
The sea is wordless
but it tries to talk to us.
We carpenters are also translators.
We build with sounds, with whispers & with wind.
We try to speak the language of the sea.

We want to build to last
yet change forever.
We want to be as endless as the sea.
& yet she mocks us
with her barnacle & rust stains;
she tells us what we build will also fall.

Our words are grains of sand,
our walls are wood,
our windowpanes are sprayed with solemn salt.
We whisper, as we build, 'Forever please,'
-by which we mean at least for thirty years.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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