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Origins Artwork
Origins artwork by Fernando Mercado

 

Serenade to My Walking Stick

(For Fernando Mercado, who carved it)

Whittled from a mop handle,
painted blind man’s black
and topped
with a carved wood head,
you, Stick,
stride through the fields
and heaving hills
without bending a knee
or taking a breath.
I’m not so perfect:
heart sags in my chest,
even my wrists sweat,
and my knees, my knees,
old creakers—worse
than an Erector Set.

Don’t look at me that way,
Wooden Head.  You are
no better than
a mandrill’s mask,
an African witch doctor’s
cheap disguise.
And with your body
tattooed
all the way down
like a drunken Dyak
paralyzed in sleep,
your looks
leave much
to be desired.
Even the bearded
old man,
the patriarch
half‑way down
your hipless form,
is no one to talk:
his pursed lips
are chiseled and cracked
and always prepared
to admonish or deride.

Stick, I stood you
against the wall
so you could rest.
Why do you
question me so
with your swirls
of circles and lines?
Every night, your silence
and your stares,
your perfect posture
though you lean
against the wall.
Say something, tap
against the bookcase,
or do the dance
that’s sacred to the trees.

Stick, you are not
a companion I enjoy.
You show me how
all objects
are separate and alone
and only keep
the place they occupy.
I felt the past
was carved
into your frame.
I thought each face
would speak
unwritten laws
and wanted you
to share my weight
and stride with me
across this world
and know
the things I loved.
But you are
what you are,
and like the others
keep your secrets
and your face,
unable to release
affection
or anything that’s
passionate
and reciprocates
with more
than cordial grace.
Stick,
you’re more my deputy
than my friend.

So stand like that
against the wall
until I grab you
by the head
and make you walk,
propel you through
the empty
evening streets
like a grandfather
guided
by a bullied son.
For even though
you show me
nothing but contempt,
it’s true you make me
swagger
when we walk
and are an almost
holy relic
in my hand.

 


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