Other Poems

Blistering Hope

A stonemason’s meditation on perseverance

When cutting capstone, carefully
measured, from a larger block with
nothing but hammer and chisel, you
come to know the necessity of blister-raising
toil to achieve envisioned result.

No guarantees are to be had, of course. Sometimes,
despite calculated scoring, tracing a careful contour
across one edge, ‘round to another, and another, and yet another,
with metered strokes and measured aim (fingers
are no match against the carom of sledge)
the rock stubbornly declares it own gnarly cleft.

Some fractures are costly; some rocks
just don’t cooperate in the prestige of
being mortared atop crafted columns.
(But even these—the jagged rubble hidden
behind hewn face—have their
anonymous, reinforcing roles.)

Nothing, I say nothing, is finally lost.

To my amazement, though, most
such cuts conform to the experience
of the ancients who first discovered
the cause and effect of arm-aching
labor in fashioning ordered edges.

Such disciplined patience!

It seems implausible: that soft
tissue of human hands could effect
an accurate rending of molecules so
dense the phrase “hard as a rock”
was invented. And it is accomplished
without traceable progress.

The rock well disguises its stress.
Dozens of strokes are no different from the first,
and the splitting swing is as an epiphany. In such work,
memory is more important than manifest.
The stone’s sheer beauty is the only interim award;
blisters, the only gauge of progress.

Nothing, I say nothing, is finally lost.

How much less plausible the promises of other ancients:
that one day—How Long? How Long?—the serene
meadow welcomes wolf and lamb together; the shamed
know jeer-displacing joy; the fires of mercy forge
amnesty from enmity. How long, ‘til the Beloved’s intention
for creation coheres, prompting hope and history to align?

The implausible has been promised. But not apart
from covenant terms of disciplined patience,
of sweaty, achy perseverance in pounding
away—strike after metered strike, with pauses to
relieve parched and breathless throat—at
apparently-impenetrable prospects.

Insurrection against the implausible
is underway in countless but
largely-hidden places.
One or more within your reach.
Can you handle blisters? And,
sometimes, gnarly clefts?

Nothing, I say nothing, is finally lost.

©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. July 2006