Weekly Poem: ‘First Thing’


By Paul Hunter

Halfway through my first hot cup of tea
I carve at the block till
the first time the knife starts to slip.
Rarely do I put in a morning
bearing down on the maple,
usually no more than a cooling second cup.

If I am lucky I will have quit in time,
there will be nothing hurt. If not,
a touch of white glue on a toothpick,
a sheet of waxed paper
then a slab of heavy iron
to flatten out the slip.

Repairs can be invisible, or
you might have cut away
something you can’t live without
but have to unless you want
to call the whole thing scrap.

Either way the slip lets you know
when the edge goes
like the fall of a skater
and you learn to watch for it.
From then on a little
sharpening for next morning
at oilstone and strop since
you can’t have your tools too sharp
first thing, or too ready to begin.
Then it’s on to ordinary work.


photo_hunter.jpgPaul Hunter is a poet, musician, instrument-maker, teacher, and editor and publisher. For over a decade, he has produced letterpress books and broadsides under the imprint of Wood Works Press, located in Seattle. His poems have appeared many journals, and he’s the author of several chapbooks and four books of poetry.