The Arrow Maker

by D.M. Black

The arrow-maker has beautiful hands: they are strong and slender.
He glues the flight to the shank with unpausing, definite movements.
With his steady gaze before him, he weighs the arrowheads in his hand –
He makes a decision, he binds one head to the shaft,
Winding the tough thread round, again and again, correcting for overlaps;
Then glues the thread in its place, then varnishes the length of the arrow –
Then stands it to dry out of sight, in the deep shade in back of the door-light.

But the arrow-maker is young: he would like to be out with his mates catching squirrels
Or gambling for beans in the village, with breaks for philosophising and horse-play.
Or perhaps going off with a girl, past the small fields into the forest
To which they are called by the Meaning of Life, dreaming and loving…
Or he would like to be down at the river, admiring its wrestling currents
Or dizzy seeing its broad, shining floor, forever in decorous motion.

It is a burden for the arrow-maker that he has to make arrows, that his people
depend on him. He sits in the doorway in sunlight, not looking up from his task
Or looking up when someone approaches, and calling out to them cheerfully.
He is identified with his task: you couldn’t say he is sorrowful
Or that he’s proud, exactly, to have this use for his dark eyes and beautiful hands.