Saving Nails

“My late friend, the poet and novelist Jim Harrison, used to tease me about the buckets of bent nails in my barn, which I planned to straighten on some rainy day but which only accumulated. Here’s a fine bent nail poem by Thomas R. Moore, from his new book Saving Nails, from Moon Pie Press. Moore lives in Maine.”   –Ted Kooser, former U.S. Poet Laureate

Saving Nails

I strip the porch roof, pick out the used
nails, and toss the shingles down onto

a drop cloth, remembering when I shingled
my grandmother’s roof fifty years ago:

the tar smell, the brackets, planks, and
ladders all the same, but level now

with hemlock limbs instead of locust.
I lug four shingles up the ladder, kneel

and drive the old nails home, slide
another shingle into place, pound,

toes bent, knees creaking. Miserliness,
a friend jokes about the nails, but I call it

caring, thinking of the man who gave
us this land on the cove, the cottage, the boat-

house full of boats. The only time I saw
him he was at his work bench, a rich

man straightening nails, moving from
the bent can to the anvil to the straight.

 

 

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