It was a big deal. Carbon Steel.
It would rust if not treated right
Red and Orange flakes similar in color
To both my brothers' Beatles hair.
The blade would poch and scar
If not totally dried, left damp.
It was a big deal. Not that stainless shit.
That’s for suckers. Can’t hold an edge for a damn.
Steel, real Carbon, can get filed down
Ground to such a fine point
That the tomato cleaves and divides
The garlic wisps, transparent film
The knife sits even in the palm
Weighted more appropriately for her
Small, cramped fists. Her Virginian gardening hands.
The weight of the blade is light
Short and thin, 25 years old
If a day. More than likely a gift
We gave her, when Holidays were tolerated
Yorkshire puddings baked, crested, and fallen
Handel’s Messiah, and only his,
Coming through the Old Man’s Hi-Fi
It would have been the oldest of us
Who found it, picked it out, knew
The quality of the blade, could pronounce
All the stacked vowels and repetitive consonants
From the French Factory where it was made.
He and the elder would discuss metallurgy
Bushido and Samurai, cribbing things learned
Watching Kirosawa, aping Mifune
“You can trust steel”, one would say.
“You can trust steel”, the other would confirm.
I was told how to hold it
How to walk from here to there
How to drag it across the fat of my thumb
To check the bite of the blade, its intergrity.
I was warned about the rust
Lectured about the whet stone
Shown where the bandages and iodine
Could be found once I cut myself proper.
I was small when this knife came into the house
So long ago, before the remodel, before
So much came to pass, before this knife
Came into my possession. I was small.
When I took it, not so long ago,
When she was still in that kitchen
When the light was still good, when
She was still in that kitchen
I took the knife, wrapped up in short kitchen towels
Shrouded in yellow flower prints.
I tucked it into my bag, next to my journal
And took it back to my kitchen, some miles away
Beyond any measure of time.
I don’t think anyone noticed it gone.
It was the books from the library that we took
That were noticed missing – gaping holes in the face
Of the wall opposite the picture window in the alcove.
I had stopped stealing books years before.
But I took the knife because it reminds me of her
Small cramped hands, her quick and messy chopping
Her listless quality as she would stare out the window
Through the purple blossoms on the clinging vine
Out into the even slope of suburbia
So far, so distant, from the holler and dale of the river valley
Back there in Virginia, from whence my Mother came.