In the days when I was training
on the Griggio in Blaise's shop,
all metric and fabulous, with dials and rings
and a brake, electromagnetic, meant
to simplify setup (it didn't), I was always
wrangling against the power feeder, trying
to keep straight what was cope and what
was stick, how to run cock bead with the face
on the fence, whether to bolt the tenon clamp
on the ball-bearing table before or after
I pinned the miter gauge in place.

It was crazymaking. I loathed the machine
as I had loved Thorn's simple, elegant
Powermatic of Delphine Avenue, Waynesboro.
I'd get all shaky and gun-shy and couldn't stand
to have to fix the shaper steel between
the lock-knife collars and tweak them
into their perfect little circles of scotia, bolection,
astragal. But what I did like--this

is the thing of it, finally--was that the cutterhead
was so big, and the column of air it started moving
so massive, that simply by opening one's mouth
and moving the lips in and out in larger or smaller shapes
of "O," one sang with a voice not one's own, and whistled.
Like blowing across the neck of a bottle, but weirder.
It was as though a harmonic existed in the back of the throat
along a string drawn tight by the work of the shaper:
to remove whatever is not the thing desired of it,
the carbide cutter, after all, formed in the shape of matter
one can do without. In the end familiarity
bred contempt, and my fear, which was vast,
gave way to convenience: nothing bad kept happening.
We turned out acres and acres of frame-and-panel,
and I got paid my wage. Still always played
the mouth-game, even after the wonder of it,
and the oddity, blew away like so much swarf
through the dust-pipe, down the cyclone, to the drop-box,
filling bins and bins and bins and bins and bins.

:: John Casteen, in Ploughshares 29:4 (Winter 2003-04)

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