The Nails

I recall some rusty nails, three or four,
in the top right-hand drawer
of an oak desk in my uncle's house.

And that dull pair of shoes he used to wear,
bought for gardening from an Oxfam shop,
their ancient leather hard as bakelite,

that he wore until the soles were gone.
They were also worn by another then long dead
and nameless, save to strangers far away:

for we felt someone there we couldn't see,
that rose from the life the shoes had led
before they came into my uncle's home.

And when he died I found those hand-wrought nails,
all wrapped with muslin, very old,
and wondered what their hidden history was

and what they might have pierced so long ago.
Then I knew someone else was standing near,
out of sight but with a hammer in his hand,

who reached for me from suffering and love
and knew my heart was lamed and broken down,
like some old horse that's never known a shoe.
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