Because the men had work they meant
to do, they pulled two strips of metal
from a wall
in back of an old church
(surely no use to anyone there)
and carted them back
and laid them flat
on their anvil. One of these
had come without much prying. It lay
still, eager to be hammered
or a wheel. The other piece
had taken a great portion of an hour
to wrench free; mayhap it had thought
the wall its destiny. This one had bent
a little in the struggle. Thus it lay
at angles with the anvil, on its side
and seemed to tremble as the hammer rose
and quiver as it fell.
The blows were swift
and unrelenting blows. The men
knew what they were about, and soon
the first had taken their desired shape.
They set it to its task, and turned again
to straightening the other for the same.
They put it in the fire for a bit.
The room was dark. The crooked metal lit
a small place on the anvil, where it writhed
as though it felt
the heat, and feared
to feel the blow.
How hard it was to shape. The anvil rang
and rang and rang and still the metal bent
and twisted every way
but which they meant. The sparks
flew up like hundredfolds of dying stars.
Perhaps they beat too much upon one side,
because at last it folded
on itself. And when they sought to beat it out
again, it cracked along the flaw,
and snapped. The crack was long.
The metal was too weak.
Ah, well, the men said. It was our mistake.
The flaws were in its core. A solid rod
is what we ought to use. We'll start again
with good materials. With this they tossed
the broken halves into the dust
brittle with weather and the rust that grew
with every rain, until a Hand that knew
its work took hold:
plucked them from the ground
carried them home
laid them by its fire
felt them over closely for each flaw
lowered them into the hottest flame
placed them on the anvil end to end
hammered evenly on every side
fused the ends together into one
and when the room was still, the metal too
was quiet, resting, ready
to be shaped.