“if I was a gate”

Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

I thought I loved the cordless screwdriver
but this is something else altogether
I hold my shiny new electric drill
listen to its high-pitched whine
it is fairly leaping in my hand
tingling through my arm my shoulder
waking all my bones

I am a surgeon
drilling tidy holes
precise and perfect
I blow off the dust
step back to admire my handiwork
brandish my shrieking drill
step in again

you have to make small notches first
you see, in the cupboard doors
I could pull out
my old battered hammer
use brute force
I prefer to take the bit in hand
push it gently into the soft wood
make the small circular motions
that create the slot it
will slide into naturally
otherwise it jumps around
eager but awkward
until you guide it home

there is that small moment as the drill bit
pauses seeks slips in
a second’s resistance before it sinks
I feel the wood yield under my
steady singing pressure
the bit bores deeper and deeper
until with a start I feel it
I am through

now this is power
like when a lover leaves and
your fear turns into the sudden
realization that you can do it for yourself
just as well or better
and you don’t have to listen to the same
Monty Python story
over and over and over
through the course of a long
beery evening either

Darryl showed me what to do in Totem
it felt heavy and alien in my hands
I wanted to throw myself at his feet
beg him to come home with me
drill my first hole

now I’m laughing aloud
fiercely proud of the naked apertures
racing across my kitchen
like a banner
now I’m looking around my house
wondering what else I can plunge this into

I didn’t put music on
wanting nothing to interfere with the
insouciant shrieking seduction of my electric drill
the song fragment that loops through my mind:
if I was a gate I’d be swinging

Notes on the Poem

The title of this exuberant poem by Leslie Greentree comes from the lyrics of the song "If I Were a Bell", from the 1950 musical "Guys and Dolls", composed by Frank Loesser. How are the Loesser song and the Greentree poem connected? Let's take a look. Greentree's poem is an exuberant piece of storytelling about a woman taking charge of her life and household after the departure of a not terribly missed former partner. The Loesser song brims with lively analogies (bells ringing, gates swinging and more) for the narrator's delight as her attraction is reciprocated. In the same fashion, the poem playfully employs power tools as symbols of both empowerment and oh, perhaps some rather saucy suggestions as the narrator feels some renewed confidence in herself. "now this is power like when a lover leaves and your fear turns into the sudden realization that you can do it for yourself just as well or better" Cue up a nice rendition of "If I Were a Bell" and enjoy it as the soundtrack that the narrator perhaps eschewed ("I didn't put music on") as you re-read the poem ... and you will doubtless see the lovely connection between the song and the poem.

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