Take Heart 31 August 2011

Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 in Culture

Take Heart 31 August 2011

A Conversation in Poetry

Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Poet Stuart Kestenbaum of Deer Isle is director of the Haystack School of Crafts, one of the state’s cultural treasures. His poem for this week remembers his father, a Mr. Fix-It who couldn’t.

Mr. Fix-It

By Stuart Kestenbaum


My father never made anything or

fixed anything, even though we had

the obligatory tools in the basement,

the beautiful hand drill that belonged


to my great grandfather the carpenter,

the once-used brushes and the mysterious

cans of paint and shellac. And he never

cooked anything either, never turned


the coffee pot down to perk,

never cracked an egg and only once

that I remember barbecued steaks,

the smoke rising to heaven like a burnt offering


from the charred remains. When he returned

home at night, the smell of gas and oil

still close to his clothes, he’d settle on the couch

finishing a New York Times crossword puzzle while


keeping track of the Yankees on TV, until he

fell asleep, only to rouse when I’d change the channel.

“I was watching that,” he’d mumble, though asleep,

and I’d believe him, but now I think he wasn’t there


but had been at his domestic work, the night shift,

dreaming the lives of his children,

building a house of words, writing

the perfect story whose ending we never get to.


Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2007 by Stewart Kestenbaum. Reprinted from “Prayers & Run-on Sentences, Deerbrook Editions, 2007, by permission of Stewart Kestenbaum. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.

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