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Cold Chisel

by Jean Hollander

A Craftsman chisel—
heavy iron bar
ending in wedge shape—
in my hand I was
stronger than Lee, the handyman
who, muscles bulging, could not open up
the freezer door clamped shut
by years of melt and freeze that bound
the rubber gasket to the metal frame.

But will of ice melted before the force
of that cold chisel as easily as night
gives way to dawn. Inside, the sculpted ice,
its corbeled stalagmite and frozen stalactites,
beneath the iron elongation in my hand
cracked into diamond shards and fell
obediently into the waiting pail and when
the melted trophy turned to liquid shine
I poured the water on a newly planted fig.


Jean Hollander’s first book of poems, Crushed into Honey, won the Eileen W. Barnes Award. Her second collection was a winner in the QRL Poetry Book Series. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Her verse translation (with Robert Hollander) of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio were published by Doubleday. Paradiso will be released this year. She has taught literature and writing at Princeton University, Brooklyn College, and other institutions. (5/2007)

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