King’s Creek
William Kelley Woolfitt

With hands of mahogany, hands
of amber and muscovado sugar,

catch and lap the moonlight that spills
into the room, stipples the highboy,

your counterpanes.  Dream of stretched
vellum instead of paper, the ironmaster

portraited or in the flesh, wire scratches
in primer-white.  His back pearls

when you wash it.  Trace the muscles he uses
for the lifting of whip-saw and broad-axe. 

By day, keep his figures, bid them stand
in tidy rows: skillets, hollow-ware;

cannonballs, cords of wood burnt
to charcoal, then shoveled into the mouth

of the bloomery that shadows acres of slash
along the creek.  While orange embers

hiss in the grate, find nonsense
in his equations, misappraisals, pencil slips. 

Your work he requires
means fond of
Shoulder, freckled and bare, your hands

means with him, a life. Sum up the pounds
of charcoal; the petals of sponge iron;

stumps of walnut, maple, and beech.  

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