The Penknife

The Penknife

A five inch penknife;
So much a part of him.
The whole curve of it
fitted my father’s hand,
and the blade,
well made,
curved in
well worn.
I recall both man and knife
renowned for their
sharpening skills:
pencils, bamboo flutes,
pea sticks and whittled bark,
notches on my bow
and finer points on all my Indian arrows.

I find the artefact in the green tin box.
Connection made!
Immediately, “I see your hands, Pop!"
both pianist and artisan,
calmly capable
and full of skill.
Kind hands, nicely knuckled
but I suppose, a bit gnarly really.
I used to love pressing their blue veined backs.
You never seemed to mind.

And so, with penknife poised,
you fed us picnic apples,
Laxton’s Fortune
quartered, halved or sliced
and sometimes skinned.
These were home grown
on cordons trained by you,
for which your willing, working, penknife
cut the string.
And as we ate,
as always,
Mother would remind us all
how that same blade
had chopped the lugworms
on your fishing trips,
and tastes and memory of mackerel would silver in
with lucky bream and bass thrown back.
We never ate those then!

And on a Cornish Pier one night,
ou fought a battle
with a Conger Eel.
And lost!
Later the 'Dreadnought' Angler
would put his reel away,
folding the penknife
into a new frame
that could no longer kill.

And so to apples,
and that deliciousness of life
that you embraced
in Autumn’s garden.
After our feasts
you would wipe the steel,
with care
and fold it in its shaft,
stating the fact,
 as usual,
“It’s perfectly clean”.
Though I hope not.
On those rare occasions
when I take it from the tin,
I wish some trace of you might still remain,
For I would hold the substance
where your so loved hands have been.

© Joanna Huckvale 2014

Class exercise Spring 2013:- to write about an object that was of great significance. I chose my father's old penknife. He would have been a hundred years this Autumn.


Joanna Huckvale

I have always enjoyed writing and concocting stories and poems and I would like to thank my mother for singing to me when I was young and showing me that it was natural to write things down. Telling impromptu stories to my kids when they were young was also fun.

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