Spotlight: Telling it Slant / Counting on an Axe / Disturbance with Walnut

telling it slant

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or everyman be blind –
                                           Emily Dickinson

so there is Michelangelo up the ladder
on the platform
laid on his back
wishing he chipped at a piece of sculpture instead
inevitable that
some paint falls on the stone floor
drips from between the planks
in a second
hits ground
to describe another kind of art
that will not be known for centuries yet
where another artist
is more deliberate rather than his attention
being elsewhere

and each day a novice cleans the floor
knowing heaven and angels only appear from


counting on an axe

winter has arrived             or is on its way when
I sit on a chair in the shed
to sharpen the axe
with a whetstone
+++++++++++++++count the scrapes
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++over metal
until I lose track
++++++++++++++then start again
+++++then wonder again
where the word whetstone originated
so stop
+++++go and look it up
find whet means to make more keen
++++++to sharpen –
++++++this satisfies my appetite
++++++++++++++++++++++++++for a while
so return to the shed and bend over the task
once more

observe how grains of the stone powder fall
on my work jeans after a long count
so stop to brush them off
check the axe edge to see if burrs
and metal blemishes that dull a wood split
have gone
continue to scrape and let my mind
think about how long people have sat
somewhere sheltered and quiet
to carry out this essential activity

only think about this for so long
because I still do not know where the word
whetstone originated –
++++++++++++++++++plan to find out
turn over the axe head
++++++++++++++++++begin to count


disturbance with walnut

each hashed up pantoum is a disturbance in the force
potential victim for any wandering death star
lined up to crack a walnut with a sledge hammer
that announces if your name is Ray you’ve had it

no no this is not science fiction
this is not a Bradbury or a Technicolor Lucas
though could well be over in three hours
its potential victim any innocently wandering death star

with lines hashed up as a disturbance of poetic form
that announces with repetitions it will not be a sonnet
non no this is also not genre fiction
or a pantoum lined up to crack an innocent walnut

who can we trust when internal rhymes announce
it will not even be a villanelle
over in nineteen lines and not three hours
pure fantasy like the Gollum ring thing

just think of the longest line you could fit on a page to disturb the balance
line it up to crack a walnut with a sledge hammer
say something original for the penultimate line to convince
that each hashed up pantoum is a disturbance in the force

James BellJames Bell was born in Scotland and now lives in France where he contributes photography and nonfiction to an English language journal. He has published two poetry collections: the just vanished place and fishing for beginners, and continues to publish poetry and stories internationally, most recently with Long Exposure Magazine, Cyclamens & Swords, Shearsman, Tears In The Fence and The Journal.