Cathryn Essinger: "October, in the Workshop"




My father is at the lathe, turning a rung

for a chair that once belonged to his mother.


It has been broken as long as I can remember, 

and my grandmother has been dead for 30 years.


I am doing it, he says, because I promised her

that it would get done, and besides, I may be


the only person who remembers how it happened,

or who knows how to fix a worthless chair.


He is the diligent son, the one she depended on

to pick the cherries, mow the grass, mend the fences.


How did it happen, I ask, and he explains, I imagine

my father used the rung of the chair as a ladder,


and I am left to decide if this is possible, if a 300 lb

man would use a chair rung in this manner, or


if my father is looking for one more splintered thing

to lay on his father’s grave, here, after all these years. 


Outside the workshop, beyond the shadow of the house, 

acorns are dropping so steadily they sound like rain,   


geese are making ragged runs, modeling the V’s 

that will nudge them south toward warmer water, 


and the sycamores are laying down leaves, one by one, 

as if they were pages ripped from some angry book.


Dad pauses for a moment, listens with a drill

in hand, and then adds, but maybe I’m being unfair…


Cathryn Essinger is the author of three books of poetry—A Desk in the Elephant House, from Texas Tech University Press, My Dog Does Not Read Plato and What I Know About Innocence, both from Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Midwest Gothic, Antioch Review, and Alaska Quarterly, among others.