When I tug it from the clamp
snugging it to the garage wall
my hand reaches into the past,
to the backyard garden
where my grandfather stands,
his hands poised at the top of the shaft,
as his weeding and tilling were interrupted
for the one, grainy, five-by-seven
that sits on my dresser
and greets me every morning.
He looks over his shoulder,
squinting in the sunlight baking his back,
wearing the long sleeves, vest and tie
from his day at work.
Nothing was permanent-pressed
about his world.
It was an age of migration and planting,
a time of sturdy fibers
that cupped to knees and elbows,
frayed at the collar
and swung on a line
stretched from the back door.
A time when green-visored engineers
hunched over drawing boards
as they pulled lead along t-squares and triangles.
When rough hands anchored a length of ash
to be turned and rounded,
and wood flakes clustered in forearm hairs
as a drawknife was slowly pulled across its surface.
When a craftsman’s eye
shaped the shaft’s narrow neck
to lead my grandfather’s, my father’s and my hand
to the harrow’s sweet balance point,
where we could cradle and caress it
in the crook of our fingers
on our way to drawing its tines
through the rich earth
dreaming of a better life.
Bill Newby is a life-long teacher who uses poetry and fiction to explore moments of celebration, complaint, concern and comedy. His work has appeared in Whiskey Island, Ohio Teachers Write, Bluffton Breeze, Sixfold, Palm Beach Poetry Festival Fish Tales Contest, and Island Writers’ Network’s anthologies, Time & Tide and Ebb & Flow.