Dead Men

I am warded by dead men,
guided by ghosts;
their touch on my arm is deft,
I fear for the skill in my hands.

I take his tools down from the rack
and watch
as the scroll coils,
the steel draws down.
The drift sinks plumb-centre
through the body of the bar.

These things are gifted:
I step into their spell.

In the upswing of the hammer
the blow’s intuition.
In the pressure of my knuckles on the tongs
a nicety of angles judged.
As though their palms had printed on the place
a knowledge-hoard
that’s mine to touch.

And at its heart the fire,
the cave of coals
through which the bellows’ pulsing soughs.
Behind the suck-and-push of leather
I hear the sibilance of heat
that spreads along the bar.
The looseness that precedes the burning,
the lucent dangerousness of steel,
the hiss of their companionship.