This week’s poem doesn’t tell us why the speaker seems to be trying to distract her father with his beloved tools and work. There’s tenderness under this list of projects and tool names. The father’s relentless desire to fix things in the physical world, which once might have annoyed or angered the speaker, now seems to be what ties him to the world.

Deborah Cummins is the author of an essay collection, “Here and Away: Discovering Home on an Island in Maine” (2012), and two collections of poetry, “Counting the Waves” (Word Press, 2006) and “Beyond the Reach” (BkMk Press, 2002). Her poems and essays have appeared in several anthologies and in numerous journals and magazines including The Yale Review, New England Review and Orion.


Where’s Your Hammer, Dad?

By Deborah Cummins

Your electric sander? That saber saw

we couldn’t drag you from those weeks

you knotty-pine-panelled the basement,

rigged above your new wet bar the revolving

Schlitz sign scavenged from old Pat and Matt’s?

Sit and stare into space? You’re not the type.

Where’s your level, your lathe?

Remember that winter you overhauled

that busted Evinrude outboard and restored

Mom’s maple hutch, its door

that for months wouldn’t stay shut?

How about that long afternoon

you wouldn’t abandon your workbench

until you’d finished your surprise,

the burled display case for my horse figurines,

a collection I was sure I couldn’t live without?

Come, at least kick back

in your retro-fitted lounger. Let’s grab

a cold suds – Papi’s still punching homers.

Sit and stare? Eyes that don’t dream, plan

a next project? Look, there’s still plenty

of wood, wire and bolts begging

for connection, drill bits eager to bite.

Where’s your screwdriver, Dad,

your needle-nose pliers? Your Allen wrench,

acetylene welder? For God’s sake,

doesn’t something need to be fixed?


Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2018 Deborah Cummins. It appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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