The Toecutter

The Toecutter

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Hear Mary-Jane read this poem
We see how the drowsing harbour sinks its mist in morning gold
and how shipyard workers smell of salt and rusty nail.
Fishermen’s wives gut through another day’s produce, while
blue-green algae sprawl on ship bows and on granite block.

The Toecutter is in town. He hastens, head down,
hands in pockets, his arms exposing kaleidoscopic totems
of a tattooed glory. He has opened the box. The box of boxes.
The box nobody dared unbolt before. Its lid a weary load,

still in his hands as words once spoken now seek him
like a shoal of spectres. He halts, rests his finger and
closes it again, an act little more than wishful thinking.
He hastens, head down, hands in his pockets, along a littered street.

And he enters the house, her house, takes the lift and watches
numbers light up in their ascension; 14 … 15 … 16 …
He looks at the floor, at the ceiling; he stands stock still
and yet is always moving. He is a raging child, barely contained.

His body, rigid as a puppet, jerks toward her room.
He is on his way to surrender to his Old Lady. She almost
comforts, almost loves. He cannot get enough of her or his own
hope. He will see her again and count her amongst his wounded.

‘Poetry, or creativity like this has a short half life,’ he mutters in a tone
inhuman. Leaving the house he smiles like an old and flatulent
summer pond, more sunned upon than sunning. His Old Lady? She is
an echo and a buttress of his identity; an abstraction. The toe fell.

It was an accident, or so they say. He leaves, meanders, becoming
snagged among the barbs of one thought, getting lost in the
loops of the next. He is pained, we know it. The box pins him to
the ground, a wish to sail pricks him like an etherized needle.

He hastens again, head down, hands deep in his pockets.
The box weighs heavy in his trousers, stashed. The skin on his forearm
ripples like a purse of rolling marbles in a sagging bag of leather.
The toe?
It holds all human vanity. There can never be delicacy in repression.

The Toecutter, whose sharp intellect is captive to fleeting impressions,
cuts expressions, wields a willful wit. His compass is his enemy.
The box is his life’s prime vessel. He’ll hand it over, in barrels of mirth,
to those shipyard workers where he reigns triumphant,

or pack it in with the old fish guts of venom and acrimony.
To set such a soul, drunk with stasis and seduced by travel,
on the seas … That is a course and call, for creativity,
a short half life, and a toe severed.

Recorded at Sky Productions, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong