Ode to a Wire Brush

This entry is part 25 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools

Never was walking
a greater penance
than for one without any feet
& legs more numerous
than the corrosive rain.
And the to-&-fro of it:
pacing is a refuge
when you can’t stand still.
Do it long enough
& distraction turns into discipline,
the ground warms
& acquires the hard gleam
of an interrogator.
You confess, confess, confess.
Your tracks are covered
with a thin brown dust.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

9 Comments


  1. Wonderful. What a line: “pacing is a refuge / when you can’t stand still.” The poem radiates up and down from there. I’m hiking some today, and your poem will be a suitable companion. I’ve printed it for my cargo pants pocket.

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  2. Thanks! It makes me happy to think of the poem going for a hike with you (and your scout troop, I presume?). And I’m glad to hear that someone makes use of the Print feature.

    You’ll be interested to know that it started off as a poem about Satan from the book of Job – “going to and fro in the earth/ and walking up and down in it.” But I’ve alluded to that verse before in my poems, and besides I liked the results much better when I cut this one loose from the allusion.

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  3. You confess, confess, confess.
    Your tracks are covered
    with a thin brown dust.

    Aha, confession itself is tainted – yet another means to provide a cover! Better to just let distraction become the discipline and kick the confession habit altogether.

    Re: Peter’s hiking: he was with me in Elk Neck State Park on the Maryland shore and we studied your poem in an ice cream shop in the town of North East, MD. (I wonder how the townsfolk feel about having their town’s name equate to a compass location.) Anyway, great stuff. We couldn’t quite figure out, “feet and legs more numerous than the corrosive rain.” Rain doesn’t associate easily to “numerous.” Is it the rain drops that are being compared to the feet and legs of the wire brush? Do tell.

    We had a lot of fun with it. Thank you. You were in our spirits!

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  4. Hi Shai. I suppose the question of whether or not confession is a good idea must vary from person to person. I’m highly suspicious of one-size-fits-all approaches to religion or therapy… and obviously “forced confession” is a complete oxymoron.

    I’m honored by your and Peter’s attention to my work. As for the line you inquire about, I guess I was thinking not about raindrops per se but their paths in the air. The wire brush reminded me of a downpour the way we experience it visually – and the way plants and soil microorganisms might experience it physically, rain in these parts being highly acidic (“corrosive”).

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  5. Nevertheless I find it interesting to think about the poem in conjunction with the Job quote and Satan–penance, pacing, confession, ground warming up. Something oblique, glancing, half-hidden…

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  6. Yeah, I suppose a mere change of the title could turn it into a completely different poem, couldn’t it? Well, I guess that’s always true. (What’s different about these tool odes from me is that I know the title at the outset. With virtually every other poem I’ve ever written, the title comes last.)

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  7. Holy Lord, how gorgeous.
    Dad (Fred First) alerted me to your blog yesterday, as I’m in the neophyte stages of blogging myself and had asked where I ought to go for vision. Now I’m not sure whether to be inspired, intimidated, or simply pissed that someone else has already written the blog I’d been licking my chops to write myself, and, damn it, far better.

    Of the three, though, I’ll go with inspired. Seeing that you made me weep for a barbecue brush at my very first go, expect me daily.

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  8. Hi Nathan, and welcome. I’m flattered by your and your father’s high opinion of my blogging. With tumblelogs and microblogging all the rage now, I’m very glad to hear you’re interested in following your dad’s footsteps and exploring the medium’s full potential for online self-publishing. User-supplied content drives innovation on the web these days, and blogs are still the best all-around platform for experimentation, if you ask me. I’d be gratified to think that Via Negativa might be a source of inspiration. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good old-fashioned scrapbook or links blog, either, of course – speaking of which, be sure to check out my Smorgasblog links for some other examples of what a blog can be.

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