Ode to the Steam Box

By Matthew Nienow b. 1983 Matthew Nienow

The steam box is used for bending   frames and planks in traditional boatbuilding.

With a match I became a man
who summoned diesel

from the yellow caverns
of a ten-gallon jug, called the flame

now hissing out the hose
at the small house of  water, that

rusted drum from which travels
an excruciating wetness — this

is what makes the body
otherwise, what makes it

sing. To take that
which has decided on a shape,

and bend, without breaking,
the lengthening fibers. To give

the straight thing curve.
To make of  the tree a song

grown long in a linseed skin,
the slick hot strake waiting

to become parcel
of  the round world again.

Source: Poetry (January 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2013
 Matthew  Nienow


Matthew Nienow was born in Los Angeles and spent most of his youth in Seattle. He earned an MFA from the University of Washington and a degree in Traditional Small Craft from the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.  His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry JournalNew England Review, Poetry, the Best New Poets anthology (2007 and 2012), and in three chapbooks.

Nienow has received awards and fellowships from the National . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Indoor Activities, Arts & Sciences, Architecture & Design, Painting & Sculpture

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse, Ode

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