The Artisan’s Defense
He’d blame the desert if they ever found him. Golden sunsets were wasted on him, made his eyes dry, clouded his mind. He saw no signs in the horizon, no maps to promised lands. The desert was for prophets, men without a trade, who could do nothing but lift their clumsy hands to the sky and then coil upon the ground, savoring their shortcomings before G-d.
If they asked him to explain, he’d grab a fist of sand. The golden grains where nothing grew and every track was lost. The desert walk had hardened his feet. Heels polished solid by the constant grinding. Crevices between his toes opened like craters, then toughened to resemble untanned hides. His hands stiffened, darkened on the outside, while his palms softened like those of idle beggars.
And then, if they sought his accomplice, he’d point to the desert wind. Whispers from afar brought to him on the back of a breeze. Memories of who he was, things he had made, danced briefly before him, then whirled out of reach, dissolved into darkness. Weeks of howling storms burying last year’s resolve.
His plan, where did it come from? He’d say the desert walk. The paths where much was lost and nothing gained. The grating of their fate upon his skin, the cracking and denting of every bowl, pot and chalice he had brought with him. And no day for mending and making new. No night for artistry or beauty. He’d denounce the desert song. The lilting lullabies, the wailing hymns. All form shattered by broken drums, lost lyres. The tune that became one with the wind, the singers aimless dunes.
If they asked him to repent, he would fall quiet. There really wasn’t all that much to say. His hands felt no remorse. His fingers showed no shame. His hands they were, but fully owned by his craft. An artisan needs something firm, objects to shape and to bend—to burn his thumbs on red-hot metal.
Not even a golden calf made that wrong.
Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer based in Toronto. In a previous life she wrote poetry and erotica in Norwegian. She returned to writing in 2011, after a very, very long break. Her writing has since been longlisted for Prism International nonfiction prize and the Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, shortlisted for Briarpatch’s ‘Writing in the Margins’ contest, and published (or forthcoming) in J Journal, Saint Katherine Review, Monarch Review, Citron Review, Sycamore Review, subTerrain Magazine, Broken Pencil, Agnes and True, Forge Literary Magazine, Fjords Review, Grain Magazine, Typehouse Literary Review, The Nasiona, WOW! -Women on writing, The New Quarterly and elsewhere.This is her first poem published in English. Twitter handle @hegelincanada
Featured photo credit: Amanda Ollinik @Allunderonemoon