advice from the practical

advice from the practical(ˈpraktək(ə)l)

the shop, and the soul(sōl)

By Henry H. Walker

in shop class my student realizes she is capable(ˈkāpəbəl),
she learns how to use machines
to cut, to drill(dril), to shape wood into a useful form,
a form she conceived(kənˈsēv) and achieved,
something more real than the dance of pixels(ˈpiksəl) on a screen,
even more real than the dance of those words
I so dearly love, in books and writing,
words which are grounded in the concrete, at their best,
but still beyond touch and concrete substance(ˈsəbstəns),

today our cars are engineered(ˌenjəˈni(ə)r) beyond our tinkering(ˈtiNGkər),
our food usually has a store between it and the ground,
our appliances(əˈplīəns) warn us not to attempt their fixing,
or even opening them at all,
instead of knowing where we are
and finding the way ourselves to where we want to go
with a map, with signs, with dead reckoning(ˈrekəniNG),
we become servants(ˈsərvənt) to our GPS,
let it find the way that we slavishly(ˈslāviSHlē) follow,
and woe(wō) to us if it is suddenly not there,

I want to figure the way myself, when I can,
on the road, in the wood, in my life,

the girl at the first of this poem
finds out in shop class
that she is not a princess,
for whom others toil(toil),
but instead she is a mover and shaker
who can do more than she thought,
if she but will,
the practical shouts at us to learn our world,
to know our world,
to open ourselves to be actors in our own play.