Thoreau

Making Pencils

by Amy Belding Brown

Comfortable with secrets,
he mixed new compounds
in the mystery ell and
gathered graphite with
a burst of agitated air,
mixed it not with wax
but potter's clay
and shaped a drill
to penetrate the wood.
The scent of bayberry
now vanished
and I wonder
did he long for it?
Was it one reason
why he so often
sought the woods?

I think about him
packing pencils,
scooping out a dozen at a time
from battered crates,
grinding graphite
fine as powder,
puzzling out the prices,
laughing at his own discovery
that more money could be made
selling unmixed graphite
than in making pencils,
and so he stopped
and told the curious
there was no need for more
since he had made
the perfect pencil.
Thus he kept the source
of his new profit hidden.
Oh, how he loved his secrets!
How many did he hold
that we will never learn?
How many still lie buried
in the forests of his heart?

September 15, 2000

Copyright © Amy Belding Brown