The Last Summer of a Carpenter

The man’s feet had callouses from all the walking he had done. The man’s legs had scars from all the times a two-by-four had crashed against them. The man’s hands had endured splinters. Though large, they were tender when he picked up his baby boy and held him close, whispering to the boy how special he was. The man’s arms had muscles acquired from a life time of work, and more work. The man’s beard spiraled out onto his chest. The man’s lips easily folded into a smile but said little. Only his dark eyes and the wrinkles on his brow revealed the concern and worry he had carried through the years. His long dark brown hair fell onto his shoulders with a small bald spot capped on the top of his head. This was a man who worked long hours to keep wife and son free from the wolves.

His shop on the side of a dusty road was simply supplied with the needs of his trade. There were no extras. If he needed, he made do. His neighbors brought their woodwork requests to him, and he delivered them well-made yokes for their oxen and ploughs. He was the man they came to whenever any public woodworking was needed. He carved the wood as well. So many of the locals had tables with the history of the village carved into their legs.

When his son was ready to apprentice, the boy came into the shop to work with the man he called Dad. The man showed his son how to turn a piece of wood on a lathe to make a perfect leg. He showed the boy how not hit his finger when he drove a nail into the wood. He taught his son how to pick and choose just the right wood for the shop. How to watch out for bad splotches in the texture of the grain. How to speak to the wood so that the wood would not be afraid when his ax felled a tree.

The man knew his son had expressed dreams of other work. The man wanted a happy son so he agreed, that when the time came, the boy would pursue his dream. First he urged the boy to learn a trade. Then he would always have something to fall back on. Besides the man found great pleasure working with his son at his side. Showing him the secrets of his trade. Revealing the mysteries of the wood. Gently caressing the love out of the wood so that it would surrender to his mastery. And the boy learned well. He had a great teacher.

The man was at least thirty years older than his young wife. He married her when she had a great need for a husband. He made sure she had all the comforts of home. She was a good wife, making his house a home filled with good food, laughter and the joy of a good home. Everybody in the village said, “What a great match these two made.”

As the end of his years approached, the man made sure that his wife was provided for. He knew his son would go off and pursue his dreams. And the couple loved the dream the boy had. Not to pursue that dream would be such a something they could never allow.

On the waning days of that final summer, the man closed up shop early and walked the hills around his home. By this time, his long hair had grayed but still it was thick. He reflected on his years that had passed through his life. Of his time on the road. Of his time watching over his wife as she grew fat with child. Of his days in the shop, giving extra special care to the woodwork he delivered to those who needed his trade. Of his time at his hearth, his wife and his son at his side, passing on the stories of those who came before him. So that his son would always have pride in who he was and treasure his people’s past. Though they were poor, they sprang from greatness.

As he walked, he came upon a spring he loved. Beside it, he sat and dipped his hand into the water. The water reflected an old man, staring back at him. How did he become an old man? he wondered. Why only yesterday he was just a boy, chasing birds through these very fields. He dropped off to sleep. The afternoon slipped into evening. The skies were sprinkled with thousands of stars.

A woman and a man came to look for him. They found the man by the side of that spring he had loved all his life. He opened his eyes one final time. His last words, “Mary, Jesus.” Then the angels carried him away.

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I’ve re-blogged one other poem by S. S. Hicks before. She just gets better and better. This poem hit the spot this morning. 

Put me on a shelf, Somewhere on aisle three, Between peas and collard greens. Pass the can opener, Take a hit. Grind our tops, Scoop out our souls. Label me fuckin’ awesome And you get a straight s…

Source: Unbranded

Hamlet: Now the Stuff Hits the Fam

O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity a while,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story. Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 5. Scene 2 (continued). It is the final scene. The swords are ready. The drums beat. The drums begin slowly. Claudius and Gertrude enter the hall and take their seats. The courtiers fill the room.

Claudius looks first at Hamlet and smiles, then at Laertes. He is happy as a lark. Soon his troubles will be over.

“Gentlemen,” he says, “first shake hands, then choose your swords.”

Hamlet turns to Laertes and offers his hand. “I have wronged you. I was out of my mind. Mad. That is no excuse. For the wrong I have done, I am deeply sorry.” Hamlet too knows this day will bring an end to things in the play.

You can feel the tension in the room. Everyone knows what Hamlet and Claudius know. Deep down.

Laertes takes Hamlet’s hand. “I cannot yet forgive you. But I take your words as sincere.”

“Let us get to it then.” Hamlet is no longer doubtful. Hamlet is at peace, knowing that fate will take care of things. In the end, all will be right in the world.

“Give them swords, Osric,” the king commands, anxious to get on with things. Tonight he will sleep well in his bed. No more worries about his stepson.

Hamlet and Laertes choose swords, each feeling his weapon out, trying it to see its workings. The two move into position, preparing to play.

The king calls for goblets of wine. Into one, he drops a pearl. “When you make a hit, Hamlet, this goblet is yours.” He raises a second goblet. “Salut, gentlemen, and begin.”

The two men move around the floor, scoping each other out. Then Hamlet makes a hit.

“One,” he says.

“No, it wasn’t,” Laertes protests.

“It was,” the judge of the match, Osric, decides in Hamlet’s favor.

“Another pearl.” Claudius drops a pearl into Hamlet’s goblet, knowing Hamlet will never own it. “Hand the goblet to Hamlet,” he commands a servant.

“Not now. Not till I have played this hand out.” Hamlet returns to position and waits on Laertes to strike.

The two go at it, then Hamlet makes another strike. Surprised at how well he is doing, Hamlet says, “Another hit.”

“You did get me,” Laertes admits. He too is surprised.

“My son will win,” Claudius says.

Gertrude reaches for Hamlet’s cup. “To your luck and happiness, my son.” She is happy that all is going well with the match. Soon things will return to normal. Hamlet will be as beloved as he was. She drinks from the cup.

Claudius screams, “Don’t drink that, my queen. It is for your son.” Panic is on his face.

“I will drink it if I want.” Gertrude drinks a second drink from the cup. Claudius’ poison moves through her body. She goes to Hamlet and lovingly wipes the sweat from his brow.

Hamlet and Laertes are at it again, moving like two wolves facing down each other over a kill. Laertes moves in and wounds Hamlet with his poison blade. The two scuffle and drop their swords. Hamlet picks up the weapon of Laertes. They fight again and Hamlet slashes Laertes’ arm.

“Come on again,” Hamlet teases Laertes.

The queen falls to the floor. The poison is doing its work.

“Tend to the queen,” Osric calls out to the servants.

“They are both bleeding,” Horatio says of the two fencers.

Osric sees that Laertes too has fallen. “How are you, my lord?”

Panic is in Laertes’ eyes. He is not sure what is happening. “I have done it to myself,” Laertes confesses.

“How’s the queen?” Hamlet wants to know.

“Oh, she fainted,” Claudius says. “Can’t stand the sight of blood. Women, you know.”

Gertrude with her last breaths calls out, “It was the drink. It was poison. I am dying.”

“What evil,” Hamlet yells. “What evil. Lock the door and let no one leave.”

Osric escapes before the door can be locked. Things are not looking good in the chamber. His motto is to save your own skin no matter the cost.

Laertes now comes to his senses. “We are both dead. My blade was tipped with poison. It is the king. The king has done it to us.”

“Soon,” Hamlet says, “it will do its work and we will all be done.”

Hamlet rushes Claudius. He drives the blade deep into the king’s body. Then he grabs the poisoned wine.

“Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, drink off this potion. Is thy union here? Follow my mother, you son of a bitch.” Hamlet forces the wine down Claudius’ throat.

“He got what he deserved. Forgive me, Hamlet,” Laertes begs. Then he dies.

With tears in his eyes, Hamlet stumbles to Laertes’ wounded body. He raises the dead man’s head and looks into his once alive eyes. “Heaven, and I, forgive you. My, how it might have been. Such friends, you and I.”

Hamlet falls to the floor. “Horatio, I am dead.”

Horatio sees that there is poison left in the goblet. He lifts the poison cup to drink.

Hamlet grabs the goblet from Horatio’s hand. “No, you cannot. You must live to tell my story.”

The sound of Fortinbras’ troops are invading the castle.

Hamlet continues, “It is my will that Fortinbras be the new king. He will rule well. Now I am dead.” And so he is.

Horatio blesses the prince who once was, “Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”

Now the play is done. The tale has been told. Prince Hamlet sleeps peacefully with the knowledge that justice was done.

It’s been a long slog, this “Hamlet”. The actors have said their lines. Now it’s home for them. Only the furniture is left on the stage. Soon even that will be gone for the halls of Elsinore are empty. Then only the ghosts walk through the rooms, searching for their former lives, wondering when their haunting will be done and they can move on. To another world.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: The Big Fellow

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day. It is “Michael Collins” (1996):

For seven hundred years, the English had ruled Ireland. For seven hundred years, the English had taken Irish land and given it to English aristocrats. For seven hundred years, the English had starved the Irish. For almost four hundred years, the English did everything they could to stamp out Irish Catholicism.

In the eighteenth century, Jonathan Swift wrote about the English treatment in his great satirical treatise, “A Modest Proposal”. To escape the starvation of the Great Hunger in the nineteenth century, Irish left their homeland in the millions for a better life in America and Australia and other refuges.

Still the English would continue to rule the Emerald Isle but for one man. Michael Collins. Michael Collins made a successful revolution against the English.

Like Denzel Washington with Malcolm X, Liam Neeson has done the impossible. He has brought a great man out of the mythologies and down to earth.

The Lute Player and the Grand Inquisitor

Some are good with the harp, some with the guitar, some with the lute. They say that Mozart had the gift of music. The same thing was said of Seamus O’Shaunessy. He too had the gift of music and he had it with the lute. From the very day he was born, he strummed his Da’s lute and gave the strings a golden voice.

How did he come by such a fine gift? One story went that his Da made a deal with the leprechauns in the days when the lad was no lad. His Da chased that proverbial pot of gold all the way to the end of the rainbow. He hid it, leaving the leprechauns without a pot to piss in. For when the leprechauns pissed, they pissed gold.

“As soon as you give the lad-to-be the fingers of Apollo,” his Da laid down the law to the fairies, “I will release your pot of gold.

What choice did the wee folk have? So they surrendered to the bribery. They gave the man’s lad-to-be his gift. And he released their pot.

When Seamus played his music, women swooned. Men thought they had died and gone to heaven. And his Da was as proud as Saint Patrick was when he chased the snakes off the Emerald Isle and converted the Irish.

The rumor went about that Seamus had the fingers of an angel when he played that lute. Kings and Emperors begged him to play.

“Just for a little while,” he told each.

As the old wise women used to say, “T’ain’t nary a free ride.” With the blessing of music came a curse. Seamus had wandering boots. He did his two week run at one court, then he was on to other parts unknown.

Then the pope asked if he would play for his court. “Of course, Your Holiness, I would be honored.”

The first night he stood before the pope and played, he strummed his lute for two hours. The pope and the cardinals were all enchanted. They believed it was an angel come down to earth. That is, until the Grand Inquisitor pointed out, “He is bewitching you. He is a witch.”

“It can’t be,” one of the cardinals responded to the acquisition. “This is a holy place.”

The Grand Inquisitor was adamant. “I believe it is Satan himself.”

The pope intervened, “There’s only one way to find out.”

The court knew what that meant. They would throw him into a lake. If he floated, he was the devil. If he sank and drowned, he was innocent.

Well, the lute player was not the devil or a witch. He was not innocent either. He was a foxy chap, being an Irishman. So the next morning, the papal court gathered at the lakeside. The Grand Inquisitor brought the lute player before the court.

“Your Holiness, I am innocent,” Seamus pleaded. “I only want to bring beauty into the world.”

“It is true,” His Holiness pronounced, “that your music is beautiful. But it enchants. It makes us forget ourselves. It takes us to places we have never been.”

“That is the mission of music,” the lute player answered the great man. “To enchant us. To give us a little piece of heaven.”

“Blasphemy,” the Grand Inquisitor screamed.

“I am afraid that he is right,” the pope pronounced. “I am sorry, my son.”

Then the lute player came back with the unexpected. “If music is not from God, why does the Scriptures say different of David. ‘So whensoever the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, David took his harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed, and was better, for the evil spirit departed from him.’” Then the lute player asked the Grand Inquisitor, “Are you saying that King David, the Lord’s own anointed, was truly a disciple of the devil, or a witch?”

All the court looked at the Grand Inquisitor. His Holiness then asked, “Well?”

The Inquisitor in all his days of inquisitioning had never come across a question of Scripture he could not answer. It had taken an Irishman to corner him into a quandary. If he answered that he was a witch or a devil, he would be condemned as a blasphemer. If he answered nay, then it must be true that the Irishman was not a witch or a devil.

“Your Holiness, it is obvious he is a son of Satan,” Mr. Inquisition said.

“Obvious to whom?” the Irishman asked. “It is obvious that you are the son of the devil, are you not?”

“I am not a son of that demon,” Inquiz responded.

“I think you’re lying,” the Irishman said. “Why don’t we find out?”

Grand looked at the Pope, His Holiness looked at Grand. The Pope shook his head and beckoned the Swiss Guard to do their thing.

The Swiss Guard seized the Grand Inquisitor and threw the man into the lake. The Grand Inquisitor did not float. He sank and drowned.

The pope rose, shook his head in sorrow and pronounced, “Too bad. We are going to have to come up with a better test. I loose more cardinals that way.”

Here’s wishing one and all a happy St. Patrick’s Day.