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Unbroken Links


In my grandparents home,

there's this chain carved from a single unbroken block of wood. 

 

Grandpa told me that to make a chain like this,

you get yourself a long square board,

say, 2 in x 2 in x 3 ft or so,

and with your whittling knife,

you invert all four corners so that you end up with a 3 ft long plus sign,

with 4 long spines.

 

You carefully carve these spines into rounded chain links,

using the center of each link as the top of the next,

and cutting away the excess in between,

so that each link moves freely within the hole of the last.

 

Grandpa told me that his chain was carved by his brother, Andy.

 

I never met my granduncle Andy,

in fact I hardly know anything about him,

 

I've been told that he was an artist- a master woodcarver,

he spent his life in New York City,

and his final project was to create these tiny wooden animals

to decorate a carousel for an installation

to be shown atop the Empire State Building.

 

I don't know if Andy finished carving the carousel animals or not.

 

One day, when I was maybe 12,

a man knocked on Andy's door,

and when my 80 year-old granduncle opened it,

the robber knocked him down the basement stairs,

murdering him.

 

My parents, hoping to keep children innocent,

kept the details of his death from my brother and I,

so at the time,

Andy was only a name to me,

another unknown ancestor,

and not someone to be mourned.

 

But recently,

In my quest to discover adulthood,

I found myself searching for a place to fit in my family,

I mean, I love my family with everything I am,

I feel uncommonly lucky to have them,

but I'm the only artsy writer,

and I can be pretty 'woo woo',

if you know what I mean,

I'm kinda 'out there',

and the rest of my family is pretty down to earth,

so I felt disconnected.

 

And then my parents told me the story of my granduncle Andy,

and I remembered the chain I admired in my grandparents house,

Andy carved that chain from a single unbroken block of wood,

yet every link is uniquely scarred,

unexpected knots exposed like birthmarks,

some links so thick they can hardly move,

and some so thin, you could snap them like finger-bones.

 

And now I see my family as this chain,

we're each different,

but we share the same rings at our core.

And even though each generation runs perpendicular to the last,

each link fits perfectly,

lovingly carved from the flesh of a much larger tree,

with roots that run deeper than humanity.

 

  (c) Copyright 2005, Daniel Strack

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