ON THE day it is announced that the poet Louise Glück is chosen for the Nobel Prize for Literature, I look for a pencil left by the man who repaired our roof.
William lives nearby. We like his work, his honesty. He repaired our toilet and dropped out of our life. The husband learned he found regular work nearby.
Then the pandemic. Unable to leave home or to look at each other the whole day, we looked around for what we could repair. The husband is quite the handyman. He built a shelter, the gate. I repaired sentences.
Some things were beyond us. Gutters rotten through. Drip-drip of a ceiling. The faded pink of a sticker marks the page of “The Egg” in the copy of “Louise Glück: Poems 1962-2012” that I brought home when May was ending in 2018:
“Across the beach the fish/ Are coming in. Without skins,/ Without fins, the bare/ Households of their skulls/ Still fixed, piling/ With the other waste.”
When community quarantine loosened, other men came. They had papers to show they tested negative for the virus. They brought tools; we lent them ours. They repaired what needed to be repaired. William turned up.
He lost the day job. He put on weight from days of staying home. His young son was not with him when he went up our roof and fixed what awaited William and his tools. Cleaning up, I found a stub of a pencil he left behind.
“EX C.” is left from the wood shaved to expose the dull lead point. A Mongol No. 2 with a teeth-dented ferrule holding pink bits of eraser. A gap yawns from the lead to the mid-part of the wooden body. William decided the pencil was no longer useful for him or his son. So I pocketed the tool.
“... Where/ the rift is, the break is.” At first, I had a hard time finding Glück on the Net because my professor’s pronunciation of her name rhymed with “click.” When I held her book finally in my hands, turning the pages slowly, the words fell like rain, felt like no rain, fell as pellet after pellet.
I looked for William’s pencil in all the bottles holding an assortment of wooden pencils, regal, honed to a fine point, never been used. I use mechanical pencils in the journals. Pencils go into William’s pockets. I cannot carry mine; these might impale me.
The Mongol No. 2 stub I found finally in the thicket of pens I keep on hand for daily reading and writing. A minimum of words is needed to explain to William what we need.
In place of poems, William’s pencil left marks and lines. A chewed bit of Mongol No. 2, the prosody of a working life. Glück, closing “Arboretum:”
“Or they became like stones in the arboretum: as though/ our continued existence, our asking so little for so many years, meant/ we asked everything.”