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Backing Out

by Matthew Nienow

           a backing out plane is a specialty tool
            often used in planking and oar making

There is a plane with a convex sole,
a small segment of a circle
much larger than the plane or any

piece of wood the plane might work;
mine is made of purple heart and ash,
glued and peened, the iron ground

to match the sole so when to the wood
it goes, it curls bright ribbons of cedar
or larch and begins to leave a hollow

where it was, whatever shape the frame
suggests. I make the shape.  I do the work.
I hit the plane on its nose or heel,

a quick clock from the mallet. 
One side makes the blade
dig deeper in the wood.

The other draws it up again.  I do
the work.  Tap here.  Tap there.
The blade is sharp;

I know how very close I am. 


Matthew Nienow is the author of three chapbooks, including The End of the Folded Map (2011). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in such venues as Best New Poets, Indiana Review, New England Review, Poetry Northwest, and Prairie Schooner, and has been recognized with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Foundation, and Seattle’s leading arts organization, 4Culture. He lives in Port Townsend, Washington, where he works as a boat builder. (1/2012)

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