The trouble with owning hammers
is that you have to store them somewhere,
on pegs or at least in a drawer
or inside an emptied out tackle box,
long after the house is built
and the circus folded like an envelope
on the backs of unfamiliar trucks,
all night from Maine to Hollywood.
I want to go by three names
like child actors and serial killers.
My father kept hammers in a drawer
and once, when he stopped by
but I was out, he nailed a two-by-four
he stole from a construction site
under the sagging cushions of my couch.
I keep my hammers in the closet
but he found them anyway. I would
like to be a hammer, I think,
and swing all day down on the heads
of thin, unsuspecting nails
even though I am not particularly
violent or unmedicated, if that matters.
It’s true, I was never any good
at math ever since that one bronze
star in fifth grade, and I know
you’re not supposed to begin a speech
or say in a poem how nervous
you are, but I think there are more nails
than people, and more hammers
than people, and I am weary of these
constant reminders that nothing
built after the pyramids
seems able to hold together for long—
not just relationships, but other things
like bookshelves, governments,
the new consensus on circumcision.
They say Man’s first tool was a hammer,
which makes sense since I can’t
imagine apes working a protractor,
much like a sextant under the wet stars.
But each time I swing, I can feel
my own head loosen from its shaft
of lacquered bone, and I know
once it flies, it will never be tight again.