Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Twenty-nine
Summer 2012
 
THE GRIND OF THE KNIFE
Cristofre Kayser

First on everyone’s list of tools,
and what is it if not excision?
The chair, incomprehensible without
some knowledge of the human form; a knife
no knife without its function.
Struggling in the Paleolithic, some Lok
battered flakes from a flint, knapped
to sharpen blade, rapped, and knew
he never fear the ritual of shamanistic
death from He Who Speaks to Spirits.

And now, the Holocene. Litany of misused metals.
The knife yet waits for its honed moment.
Blade, tang, point, edge, helve, spine, fuller,
ricasso, guard, butt: their secret lives played out
in unseen stabs, subtle strikes, invisible, desperate rage.
Bowie, machete, scalpel, palette, stiletto, dirk;
even the Swiss army knife (which may turn Bulgarian)
persists, adored by boys bent on wanton, keen adventure.
In 10,000 years we still cannot resile: chop and slit
and hack and pierce and crop and geld –
plunge and sever, gash and prune, lop and thrust. Stab.

Has anyone ever asked the knife what it is that it would like?
Perhaps cutting is anathema. If all the knives in all the world
purify themselves, scrub away the rust, scour the detritus of all their carves,
appear in gleaming frosty razor beauty, would we
take it as a sign of alchemical grace? Or would
we insist upon its earthly and sub-lunar state, curse
its bastard function and race it in the river
to be found on shores
by one intent to slash?

Odd that the ancient formation of the knife
spurns to quondam hysteria. Can that which
slices carrots with such perfection willingly
take a digit? Who first took obsidian, chipped it sharp,
and plunged it in his brother? No skinning
hides, slaying game, chopping tubers,
but outrageously buried in his kith
over some forgotten trifle.

Though undoubtedly of sacred origin – kirpan, puukko,
seax, kris, athame – and though denied by all,
perhaps the knife was never what it claimed to be.
King Louis decreed all knives,
on the street or on the table,
blunted down.
All its useful functions but a
wish of those who cannot recognize
the raw affinity of blade for blood.

Was there ever a knife that did not cut?

When he came to the place God had told him of,
Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.
He bound his son and laid him on the altar.
And then, with stretched forth hand,
he took the knife
to slay his son.

About Cristofre Kayser

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