Poetry — May 2, 2016 10:40 — 3 Comments

The Carpenter-Poet – Nate Brantingham

His hands are huge—
tools and boards,
sheetrock and girders
have roughed his hands with thick calluses.

He has built houses
and refurbished stores.
Half of Pike Place Market
has seen his hands on the walls.

Before it opens, he knocks on a roll-up door,
muffling the smells of a bakery.
The door opens barely a foot
and a cinnamon roll appears.

This man will return the next day
as he has always done.
Again he is told to come back tomorrow
and the cycle continues.

But those too-thick hands,
I know they hold books during lunch break,
some written in Latin,
some in Greek.

And here’s the secret of Pike Place.
Behind the walls and floorboards
you can find drafts of poems and translations
scratched into the studs or backing boards.

Go look yourself:
find the Catullus translated behind the sink
of that little Asian restaurant
next to the new drain pipe.

Go find the comments about Sisyphus
there behind the wall overlooking the Sound
where container ships load and unload,
load and unload.

Poetry behind the mirrors,
poetry on two-by-fours,
poetry under bathroom tiles,
poetry behind the sewer lines.

Thousands of feet stepping,
without knowing,
over the poetry written
just under the surface.

Because that is where poetry lives.

His hands are huge—
This carpenter-poet
who writes all his best works
with a carpenter’s pencil.

If you want to know who he is,
look for the worker
whose belt is full of tools
required for the two trades.

Look for the one who does geometry
like he’s read the original text,
the one who speaks
like he knows where words come from.

Look for the poet
with chalk and graphite
clinging to his fingers,
sticky with cinnamon rolls.

Look for the carpenter with
a book in his lunchbox.
The one conjugating verbs
to the rhythm of his hammer.

You may not find him
but his words still remain,
where the carpenter-poet
placed them just under the surface.

Because that is where poetry lives.


Nate Brantingham is a performance poet, numbers slinger (data analyst), and writer. He has competed in numerous poetry slams and is currently shopping around an urban fantasy novel.


  1. Kerri Rodkey says:

    Transports me back to all those hours spent exploring the market, every few years my whole life long. Thanks!

  2. Richard L Ratliff says:

    Great work your paint like Norman Rockwell with words and under currants

  3. Sarah Wright says:

    Loved this piece. Especially this line: with chalk and graphite clinging to his fingers, sticky with cinnamon rolls.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney