Poetry Sunday: “Whosoever Holds This Hammer,”
by Dawn Manning


Whosoever Holds This Hammer

Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy,
shall possess the power of Thor.

Before sunrise,
I’m at the bench, saw teeth sunk deep
in a new sheet of silver, dust gilding my jeans
in a sparkling snowscape, breath-fog
on my glasses.

Outside the lab
just beyond the thinning tree line,
electronic church bells knell the hours, the grey lanes
of the freeway string uneven
beads of traffic

into unkempt
tangles in the mall parking lot.
I strike a strip of copper on the folded edge,
chase out the air, force it to curl
in on itself—

a nautilus
whose molecules yield and spread out
faster under my brass hammer than the inner
unstruck ring can master. The sky’s
dull and tarnished

by low snow clouds,
flat and featureless as nickel.
I chase my hammer across the plain, raise up bright
mountains by the range—light the torch,
coin my own sun.


“Whosoever Holds This Hammer” was first published in Ecotone #24, 2017, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

Listen to the author reading “Whosoever Holds This Hammer” here, and other poems here.

Dawn Manning is the author of Postcards from the Dead Letter Office, a book that Traci Brimhall says “takes the Japanese form of the tanka around the world.” It’s available for order here, and you can read reviews of the book here
and here.

Honors for Manning’s work include the Beulah Rose Poetry Prize, the San Miguel Writers’ Poetry Prize, the Edith Garlow Poetry Prize, and many honorable mentions, including a Pushcart nomination. She was the 2017 Mona Van Duyn Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, Fairy Tale Review, Silk Road, Smartish Pace, and other literary journals. She lives in Greater Philadelphia and works as a writer and metalsmith.


Poet’s Note

I’d been working as a metalsmith for a few years when it was brought to my attention that I hadn’t written any poems about it. It was a bleak winter day, my grandfather had just passed away, and so I distracted myself by writing my first metal poems. I couldn’t start without paying tribute to the wielder of Mjölnir, the hammer myth tells us could level mountains but only be wielded by the worthy. My grandpa would have been worthy. So I gave myself permission to be worthy of the hammer too, to make both poems and suns. This poem quickly fell into the pattern of 4/8/12/8/4 syllables per line in each stanza, a regularity that seems to mimic the steady repetition of the work it describes. I think Grandpa—always good at working with his hands, always consistent—would have liked that too.

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