My Father’s Hammer

Now and then I channel my father who hated all things mechanical. He was incompetent with tools and just the idea of hanging a picture could make him sweat. He was the sort of man who panics before touching a hammer.

Back in the day I imagined my father was merely clumsy with amateur carpentry. He was, after all, a scholar, a Harvard trained political scientist. What use did he have for hammers? But this was naive on my part. Everyone needs a hammer at some point. Why did the hammer fill him with dread?

I think I know the answer. The hammer, more than any other instrument, reveals a man’s life is spiced with heavy lies.

This didn’t come to me without help. Late last night I read the following lines in a poem by the late Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai entitled “Travels of the Last Benjamin of Tudela”:

The time has come to engage in technological 

games, machines and their accessories, 

toys that are kinetic, automatic, 

spring-operated, doing it themselves, in their sleep, 

wheels that make things revolve, switches that turn on, 

everything that moves and jumps and emits 

pleasant sounds, slaves and concubines, 

a he-appliance and a she-appliance, 

eunuchs and the eunuchs of eunuchs.

My life is spiced with heavy

lies, and the longer I live, the bigger 

the art of forgery keeps growing inside me

and the more real. 

**

My father stayed inside his books. Those bulwarks against the forged life.

Hammers told him what a liar he was.

The subconscious is filled with angry hammers.

A hammer knows you’re bound to slip out of your life and disappear without anyone noticing.