Peter Neil Carroll
Mr Smith

The blacksmith bellows his flame, iron glowing,
turns the antique railroad spike into a swirled
handle, pounding the blade flat. Something
backward has triumphed before my eyes,
stories of my grandmother’s father, Myron,
notorious for choosing soot over soap.

My uncles spoke of his powerful arms, how
the old man could break fingers with a handshake,
but my mother only described his awful stench
and matted beard. She saw him as a throwback,
misplaced country immigrant in the big city,
a lesson for dirty-faced boys like her son.

Mr Smith mangles the language but knows
the art of horseshoes, scissors, railroad track,
density of carbon molecules in his wrought knife,
the satisfaction of hard and durable and sharp,
accomplishment you can put your finger on
only if you’re careful and know how to touch.