Poetry can be like a time machine, one where the words have the power to instantly send you traveling at lightning speed decades back in time while simultaneously illuminating your present.

Such was the case this morning with the work of local poet and English instructor Fred Shaw, whose poem “The Toolbox” appears in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  It resonated because it transported me back to the tools I grew up with: my Dad’s toolbench in a small workshop in our house, my Grandpop Middleman’s tools in their basement.

Today happens to be 25 years exactly since we lost my grandfather, I later realized. I had to look it up; out of all the many death anniversaries date-stamped in my mind, this is one that I tend to forget. (“There’s someone – a male – who has passed who was kind of quiet, who isn’t always at the top of the list of those you memorialize,” a psychic once told me. “He wants you to know he’s still with you, too.”)  His once-stenciled name has faded to a smudge. 

A few things in this life of ours need some fixing. It’s been … well … finding the right tools has been challenging.

I don’t have the instructions on how to use these tools, if indeed I ever did.

I don’t even know which tools I need.

The lesson I take from him:

find the proper tools for the job,

identify what works

from what is missing.

Your words ring so true today, Fred Shaw. I thank you.



Thanks for sharing this post!