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Assemblage, a poem by F. Richard Thomas

Dirty business—

the coal bin in the basement—

my chore to shovel coal into the furnace, 

shake the grate, stoke the fire,

haul the ashes to the alley on Saturdays.

Dirty business,

until the new gas furnace.

Dad and I cleaned the bin

and built his workroom

where we spent his free days

among saws, levels, drills, drivers,

hammers: ball peen, claw, tack and sledge;

a floor-to-ceiling cabinet

of wooden Velveeta cheese boxes labeled

carriage bolts, lag bolts, machine bolts, clasps, hinges;

Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco cans

of switches, screws, nuts, washers, fasteners.

Countless hours we measured, cut, glued, nailed,

assembled, connected, joined,

the two of us, 

in the coal bin.

Not until you were dead a dozen years did I see—

you gave me all the tools I’d need

to be a writer.

F. Richard Thomas was born in Evansville, attended Purdue University and Indiana University for undergraduate and graduate degrees, and in 1980 edited one of the first anthologies of Indiana place poems, The Landlocked Heart, jointly with Indiana Writes. He has written several full-length books of poetry, one novella, and several chapbooks.