Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 27, 2008

“Nuts & Bolts”: A prose poem for February’s shut-ins

I tried twice to reformat this, kept losing the line breaks. I suppose it will have to be good enough as is. I’m out of time here. I need better tools to fix it, anyway.

Nuts & Bolts (a Saxeville, WI poem)  

“Nuts and boltsNuts and boltsWe – got – screwed!”(Cheer for a cynical age)  

Sorting hardware on the basement workbench,As it all pretends to be something it ain’t.  Some of it pretends to be useful:Even if its purpose is ambiguousIt makes its case to be kept for a rainy day,Lest it be an essential part Of some unknown but essential machineOf the future,Or from this house’s mysterious past.  Some pretends to be human,Clever,Even sexual:The bolts threaten to bolt,The nuts aren’t sure if they’re food or genitalia,The screws–well, we’ve been over that already.The nails need a manicure(Plus they say they’ll help me out

The very next time I get hammered).

And the thumbtacks are clumsy as hell.  There’s a ball bearingBearing a strange resemblance

To a small pinball.

A pin with a brass-balled head

That looks like a button.

And a brass button named Russ (At least that’s the name Engraved on his face).  The tape is for wire,For pipes and for ducks,For paper and packingAnd God knows what.  Yet not even an inch Of magnetic tape to be found,To use with a cassette recorderAnd capture the soundOf aluminum, brass, and stainless steelDropped in a coffee can (Clank) what a sound…As I sort these tiny artifactsI am Everyman,Suburba masculino authentico,Of the genus Gen-X:Inherited hardware in my hands,In my head, In my house(Handed down, left behind By two men: First my Dad, now long dead,Then the other man who sold me this house…Though we never met,So I never did thank Rich For these stainless steel treasuresLeft behind in old margarine tubs).  Nor will I be the lastIn this long line of world-shapers, Landscapers, pipe-tapersAss-kickers And paint-scrapers. For I perform a sort of sorting ritual, Creating order, Putting washers in bagsFor no other reasonThan readiness,For the eventual creationOf still more order.  I must keep at bay the chaosSeeking to devour me—The storms that comeThreatening my home,My land,My son.  There in the corner he sits With hardware in his tiny fists,Nuts and bolts to practice with.  This is the stuff that holds our world together,Or else waits patiently on the workbenchFor the next generation, Ready (or not)To fix what’s brokenOr build something new…If they can only find the nut

To fit that quarter-inch bolt.


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