Ode to a Claw Hammer

this is Sarah’s fault

Back when all angels were male,
the hammer was the first
perfect androgyne.

Mounted on a pegboard,
it still looks almost aerodynamic,
poor thing.

This is no claw, but a pair of legs
strong enough between them
to give birth to nails.

Or rails that forgot to run parallel,
converging on a vanishing point
that’s much too close:

the train’s stuck in station
& the hammer keeps trying to hop
on its one flat foot.

Series Navigation← Ode to a Socket WrenchOde to a Musical Saw →
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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).

12 Comments


  1. Never thought of a hammer as an angel, thought I certainly swear to high heaven when I hit my thumb. My favorite bit is the androgyne/aerodynamic rhyme.

    This tool-poem genre warrants further attention. The names themselves are so captivating…Ballpeen…Coping Saw…

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  2. The other week, I attended the Virginia Festival Of The Book. Quite interesting, and I put some reviews over on Making Light, but in any case…

    I went to one program at a printing/bookmaking shop. All sorts of tools and equipment around, including a couple of printing presses and many boxes of type… On a shelf right next to me, I saw a classically shaped anvil four inches long, with a matching ball-peen hammer (head maybe 2 inches long, with a 6 inch handle). They were cute!

    PS: You and your readers might also be interested in ML’s Deep Value thread.

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  3. I am enjoying these tool poems! I find arrangements of tools, like your socket wrenches, aesthetically very satisfying, and I’ve always thought hammers seemed like creatures with an identity…

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  4. real nice, this & the wrenches both. taking me back to Neruda’s Odas Elementales, which I appreciate. I also like this coupling of verse & the rude utility of simple machines.

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  5. This begs for a woodcut illustration…quite a tour-de-force, Dave. I especially like the legs giving birth to nails.

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  6. sarah b – You’re right — those are cool names. Hmmm.

    David – Thanks for the links! And yeah, anvils are very charismatic objects. We have a big one that resides in the old shed. I think it was here when we moved in, and may predate the farm itself, given that the first settler was a forgeman.

    Lucy – Oh, I’m glad these resonate with you!

    eped – Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, Neruda’s odes are among my favorite things of his. But the immediate impulse actually came from Charles Simic: he has a matchless “Ode” in Charon’s Cosmology.

    beth – Thanks. Actually, I would love to find someone to do woodcuts for a “Morning Porch” compilation, too.

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  7. This is the third time in less than a week that the word “anvil” has come up (or been plunked down, as the case may be) in conversation. Very heavy. ;-)

    Nice poem. Definitely worth a series!

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  8. Thanks, Jo.

    leslee – Anvils remind me more than anything of failed weapons. Like if a tank had an abortion, for example.

    Glad you liked, but I think we’ll need a couple more before we can call it a series. And at the moment, I don’t know if I have any more in me. Then again, I’m usually the last to know.

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  9. These are wonderful images, Dave. I was inspired greatly by your creative personification of the inanimate, but somehow it just didn’t work out as well for me. (grin)

    Your claw hammer androgyny
    Lit a creative spark.
    I searched for something similar
    But really came up short.
    Metaphorically I’m ‘challenged’
    And I feel like such a dork
    Cause the closest I could come here
    Was a flimsy plastic spork.
    The spoonish part is feminine
    The tines should be the male
    But no matter how I looked at it
    That image seemed to fail.
    I could stare at that utensil
    Strain my brain beyond belief
    Could not force a prongish metaphor
    All looked to me like teeth.

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  10. Wow — I’m glad to be finding so many great poets (found you from Velveteen Rabbi). I love the idea of giving birth to nails (though the hammer may seem more like the dr. with foreceps at times).

    Peace,
    Michael

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  11. joan – I’m sorry, I missed this comment until now. You’ve got a real gift for light verse; don’t look it in the teeth! (Or something like that.)

    Every time I sit down to write a poem, I say to myself, “Nothing doing! I can’t think of anything,” yet somehow words and ideas always come. Maybe you’re trying too hard. Faced with a spork, androgyny might not be the operative image at all for me. I wouldn’t want to try and determine that in advance. The first priority is to empty the mind of preconceptions as much as possible, and try to relate to object of attention in a wholly aesthetic/emotive manner.

    G.M. Palmer – Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it is more of a midwife role, isn’t it? But I wanted to go as far as possible in challenging the easy equation of nailing to f***ing. So there was a bit of a feminist agenda at work there.

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