Consider All the Things You’ve Known but Now Know Differently

Matthew Olzmann

                         — After Steve Orlen

In Michigan, on his seventh birthday,

a boy is given an old toolbox. Thank you,

he says, for the tool box, Thank you,

for the wrench dotted with rust,

Thank you, for the greased screwdrivers,

and the needle-nosed pliers. Just imagine

all the wonders the boy can build

or repair now, right? No siree!

Immediately, he sets out to discover

how the world was made

by unmaking everything the world has made.

A light falls from its fixture, and he says thank you.

A fence, relieved of its nails, and he says thank you.

Sudden three-legged chairs. Bookshelves

spilling their belongings to the floorboards.

Thank you, he says. Thank you. A demolition man?

Not really. Better to call him “curious,”

one who looks, then understands,

how everything secedes, returns to dust.

Items currently damaged are held as a counterpoise

to the items inevitably (but not yet) damaged.

There used to be elves in the forest beyond our houses.

Green men and blind angels.

A bare-footed prophet stepping out onto the waves

of moss. There’s nothing that can’t be explained.

Look at the boy as he looks out at the field.

And now the field is gone.

So why then does he keep saying, Thank you?

And when will he stop? Only time will tell.

Or, maybe we should say: only time would have told,

as the child has taken that apart as well.

Father Time, piece by ancient piece.

Bone, hair, hinges. Like an antique watch.

Little screws missing. Ruin everywhere.

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