In the story, the man is learning how to use
a hammer and an anvil. There are marks on the hard
surface of the anvil where steel has scored steel.
The man imagines the blows from the hammer
that made the metal scar another metal.
He hears the ringing in his ears.
The man needs to make something, an implement.
He knows that it won’t happen all by itself.
Force must be applied in a certain direction.
There should be heat, and a bucket of cold water
into which the thing can be plunged.
To make some steam.
To make a hiss arise
from the surface of the dark water.
To temper it, to give it strength.
And there are diagrams. Drawings and plans
in blue ink on bluish paper. Angles and vectors,
plotted down to a gnat’s ass. The man knows
that without a plan there’s nothing
to diverge from.
No point of departure.
Which is where art happens, the man believes.
He picks up the hammer, hefts it in his hand,
swings down hard on the flat top of the anvil,
filling the small room with the bright ring
of steel on steel. He thinks of the barges
moving goods on the great rivers of the East;
a man on a girder swinging out over the
vast emptiness of air at the top
of a skyscraper being built, girder by girder,
in the heart of the city.
He rubs his elbow where it tingles from the blow
he let fly on the anvil. Like something
living traveled up through the steel.
An excitement of the axons and dendrites in the
armature of his body. A taint in his blood for
movement, a taste for force.
Later in the story the man can be seen working
at the anvil. Swinging the hammer with steady blows,
blows like the working of a clock, the ringing
of blows as regular and irretrievable as the ticking of seconds,
away and away and away, as a new thing is forged.
What is the man making?
It could be a sword, or a plowshare;
a shoe, or a box for keeping rice.
It doesn’t matter to the man.
He is making the key that Death will use
to unlock the door to the Universe.
He is making a flower with hard petals.
He is bringing a life into this world
the only way he knows how.
He hammers away.
It shifts its shape under his blows,
he puts it in the fire until it glows
white; he drenches it in the bucket,
listens; turns it over and over, picks
a spot and hits it again.
He is bringing a thing into the world.
He knows that he is damned.