A Teacup Heavier than a 50-Pound Hammer, by Fred Voss

(This poem appears in ‘Hammers and Hearts of the Gods’, Bloodaxe Books 2009: The author, Fred Voss is a machine toolmaker who works in California)

Jane’s MRI
has shown 2 spots in her brain and Jane has told Frank
that she has so much pain in her stomach
she can barely eat.
balances the tea tray in his arms
2-ton steel mill drop hammers
exploding next to his ear and making his heart leap
are easier
screaming bosses
and razor-sharp cutters spinning at 2,000 rpm an inch
from his fingers
are easier
and he sets the tea tray down across Jane’s legs in bed and lights
a candle
set in a blue goblet so the light doesn’t burn Jane’s brain with pain
100-pound pans full of brass collars
all day is easier
machine handles
so hot they scorch Frank’s hands when he grabs them
blast furnaces
sucking the air out of his lungs
than seeing Jane’s face shocked and trembling with pain
he lifts the teapot and pours the tea into a cup and hands it
to Jane
the last thing on earth she truly
no blueprint will solve this
no cutting torch
no sweat
pouring down Frank’s ribs as he works his heart out heaving
steel 60 hours a week
and Frank sits down into bed beside her
the sharp bones of her hips
for her to tell him how much
she hurts
no wrench or pen
no steel or poem or muscle
can help him now
as he puts his arm around her bony shoulders to try to feel her pain and hope
he has
the strength

(2009, Bloodaxe Books)