You will often be held,unable to hold back,and it will be necessaryto get used to the downward swing,anticipate the strike and love it,if for no other reason than to lovethe upward swing and sturdyrhythm that accompanies the two.
Be hickory or ash, straight-grainedand strong enough to survive overstrikes—one miss could snap your neck.May sandpaper be the roughhand that rubs you smooth.Be carved until the end of you is a wedge—you already intuit the precision it takesto fit well enough to not be dislodged.
Be a length of carbon-rich steel,2,350 degrees Fahrenheit in the open flamebefore you are positioned betweentwo dies, let the pressure haveall of you until you are formed.Have the flash cut from you;excess is excessive. Be cooled in water,not air. Don't breathe. Drown. [End Page 100]
Jamaal May is the author of Hum (Alice James Books, 2013), which won the 2012 Beatrice Hawley Award, as well as two poetry chapbooks (The God Engine, 2009, and The Whetting of Teeth, 2012). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Callaloo, Indiana Review, and Blackbird, among other journals, anthologies, films, and broadcasts. A recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Cave Canem, and Callaloo, Jamaal is a graduate of the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers and is the 2011-2013 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University.