“You have his hands” they say.
Blunt, broad, and strong;
the rounded nails and heavy palms, his grip.
Some memory, stored within each line,
each fingertip, each scar, from half a life away.
Old-leather hard with work and age;
weather-carved and worn with every stone
he lifted, shifted, placed with care,
deliberate as fate. The walls still stand,
no mortar taints their bones. A fossil
skeleton of ancient land and shallow earth,
where grey sheep band to shelter in their lee.
His lifelong craft a legacy of landscape
and perspective. Scrubbed each night,
as if in shame, they rubbed the aromatic
filling for his pipe, and whispered of his day.
A dead thumb, once crushed, tamed
and tamped the sparks into
the glowing bowl. Their touch and warmth
have left no marks, no dusty, half-remembered
scent of shaving soap or soil. I wear the gloves
unseen, and proud. Their heavy knit a map
of toil, and quiet love.
Authors note: This poem was sparked by a chance remark my Mother made. My Grandfather was a mason by trade, and skilled in the art of dry-stone walling. As I child I would sometimes accompany him to work in the Peak District of Derbyshire. Each time I return there the walls he built and repaired are a reminder of his enduring presence - both in the landscape and my life.
Incidentally (and I have no idea who the author is) there is a short ditty regarding this ancient art:
Ode to a dry-stone waller
I am a dry-stone waller.
All day I dry-stone wall.
Of all appalling callings
Dry-stone walling's worst of all.