The table saw is your wife and child
You eat its dust and in so doing make more
Leaving others in a cloud behind
From sawdust you will knead your bread to nourish
Those you love with your days, your dust.
A good saw wll race through sheet plywood like a world cup Schooner
Slice oaken planks like an Icebreaker,
Mitre poplar like a Steamer for Morocco.
Shave cherry like a Clipper Ship,
Dado maple with a fair wind bladed Spinnaker
Heeled over she saws elegant raised panels for the Captain’s cabin.
Trims her sheets to make a jig for dovetailed drawers
In short, she’ll make a fine Cutter, putting through the chop without chipping,
Always eager when you want to sail again or saw
In your Wanigan.
You’ll be her Master:
Admiral Hornblower of the arbor, the arboretum, and the harbor
Odysseus of the wine dark mahogany plywood seas.
A saw that’s weak,
Pulled by only one horse will be dangerous
The blade will tend to pick up wood instead of dicing through it,
Especially if the blade is dull.
Unless you step aside,
A board may play the dinner guest you have insulted and rising from the table,
Slap you on the nose.
The sheetrock wall behind my saw is full of holes where wood
Has jammed itself between fence and blade to be slung by catapult
Crashing through the Bastion to sack the Inner Keep.
Best to buy the strongest saw you can afford, three horses mininum,
Half a horse can’t pull anyway,
With no back legs,
Its only suitable for carnivals and carousels.
However much you may suspect your vocation is indeed a trapeze act
Such a hackneyed nag will only serve to prove
Your saw is acting like the horse’s latter half,
And give you nothing back but trapezoids.
While you look for three brave steeds, don’t forget to count their teeth.
In your horse’s mouth sixty carbide molars
Should rise from its dark slit faster than bats at dusk
Any less will leave kerf marks on the edges and set your own back teeth on edge.
Your blade must stand vertical to the table,
A line parallel to blade will reach Alpha Centauri
If it’s not, when you make doors, the stiles you ripped will
Interact with top and bottom rails drunkenly,
And when you tighten up your clamps, the door will warp and not lay flat.
Then you must throw away the work done so far that day.
Square the blade, or kick the cat.
Your fence too must be parallel to the blade, or
You can’t set a course to starboard or to port.
Out of true alignment she will wander in the kerf, yawing back and forth,
If wending to the left, she will wedge your rectangle,
Binding wood between blade and fence, burning, burning.
The weaker saw will overheat and seize up smoking as she comes to grief aground.
You must wait for high tide while the motor cools enough
Tto press the reset button and refloat,
Meanwhile, rub your filly down, lest she catch colic and kick back.
Days when your gut feels funny, just don’t even saw.
The blade so keen and quick, she’ll buck you all the way back to the barn.
You could lose a finger fast.
At least don’t overreach her whirling blade.
Use a scrap to push your lumber through, hold it down, press it flat,
More so if the piece is narrow or the stallion isn’t broken yet.
Wear no scarves or neckties, they might wrap
Around the arbor and before the blade can cut them loose
Jerk your face right down to spurting gore,
Turning stallion into Isadora Duncan’s nightmare demise.
If you have an hundred same size pieces to be cut,
Count each ten and look around.
People are not robots
In the space between each repetition
The saw will raise a claw.
If some one speaks to you don’t look at him- even
Playboy models frolicking in your shop.
If you need all ten fingers for your guitar, sculpture, girl or boyfriend,
Focus on the blade, the blade, the blade, the blade.
If you’re changing it, unplug the saw.
I once loosed an arbor nut that holds the sixty spinning
Great White teeth,
And turned to hang the old blade up.
My bowels turned over-beads of sweat
The saw turned on all by itself
Because the switch had shorted.
My friend Andy balanced his portable on a plastic garbage can,
At day’s end, November, cold and tired,
The light was going fast,
Just one last cut and home,
He turned to grasp a piece of pine he needed ripped,
Felt the saw begin to slip,
Reached back instinctively to steady it
Only to embed the blade
Halfway up his palm.
Doctors saved two fingers,
Now he makes left handed subs,
“Did you say, sir, ‘Everything but the hots?’ “
Take care my gentle sawyer, sailor, cowboy, carpenter,
For every man someday has an appointment with the blade.
She will pull you down through the dark blood slit from which you came and
You’ll whirl about for centuries like Saint Catherine on her wheel,
Oscillating giddy on the bushing of your navel,
Your keel caught up in her spinning spiral pool.
Take care, my friend, lest your wife and child decide to raise a fang,
And you the fool.