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My father's tools




My father's tools

Builder’s square of steel and rivet

Arc weld, solder, file and fettle

Angle finder, bronze on pivot

Father’s hands of finer metal


Chisel, bandsaw, axe and mallet

Bone on wire and flesh on steel

He wore your scars and jabs and cuts

Your friction burns by grinding wheel


Copper, zinc and brass and steel

Can be reborn with wax and oil

Skin and blood were made for dust

Made for powder, wind and soil


Rust in pieces, oxy torch

Gas that hissed from blue to white

You were blade and flame and fire

You were blister, heat and light

Dust and rust, your funeral pyre

You are darkness, you are night


Rest in pieces, axe and knife

Blow away to Elwood sand

Find again, your owner’s wife

She lies dissolved.

We laid her there Ash to sand and grit to sand

Ash to salt, where bay meets land


You were tempered, you were cast

By flame and forge and coal and hone

A Chevy needs some heavy tools

A Chev won’t run on gas alone


A proper car, my father said

Frame of iron, Yankee steel

Giants both, and one would last

Bones would crack and skin would peel

Metal parts can be recast

Leather bits can be made fast

With wire, cable, mesh and glue

A proper car, my father said

A proper car and that came true


I wish the one who shuffles now

Who creaks and cracks, who gets around

In either gear, ‘cos Chevs have two

Was you


Tom Manning – June 2021


Tom ManningTom Manning lives in Melbourne with a dog called Max and a lorikeet called Max who calls out 'Go Blues' most days.


Topic tags: Tom Manning, poetry, fathers, memorial



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Existing comments

best poem ES has published in ten years ... a real good poem this - how on earth did it get through ?

Patrick McCauley | 06 July 2021  

Sure; Our Tom done plenty good/ A Manning man, Of Steel and Wood/ And Chevy parts and Yankee steel/ With crunching gears, Dad takes the Wheel/And leather bits and metal parts/ This manly poem meets the YArts/ Where fancy words and female style/ Force men to sheds to spend a while/ And chiseled jaw and drooling lip/Make Pat McCauley go: 'Pip! Pip! Pip!' (Excuse the doggerel, ES, but Patrick - not Tom - deserves a bit of a backhander for his cheeky but brilliant remark).

Michael Furtado | 06 July 2021  

Really original! As well as capturing a character who I totally 'get', poem fills a gap by addressing men's identifying interests and feelings in a quiet way, without the awkwardness or worse that is so often attached to gender conversations. More please!

Peter | 06 July 2021  

So wonderful to read aloud; not all poems incline one to do that. And quite creative in naming your pets, Tom!

Pam | 07 July 2021  

Thank you, Tom and ES. Just loved this poem - every line resonates with me. (Totally agree with Patrick too.) Catherine

Catherine McCahon | 07 July 2021  

Extraordinary!! Structured yet strangely unstructured. Emotive, hiding tender love behind the harsh unfeeling metal of the workshop. Simply beautiful. True poetry. Agree with Patrick McCauley.

john frawley | 07 July 2021