The room is improbably long.
At one end, vast coils of finished ropes.
At the other, spool after spool of thin wraps
of rope, made elsewhere, in a mechanism
not unlike this one, where the ropemaker
threads each one into the machine
that braids them all together,
from thin threads to something thick and strong,
a slow process, manual once. Manual here
even if time has created a mechanized method
to do the same work.
There is something about the slowness.
The hands-on creation, carefully watched,
with smatterings of imperfection, character
that tells the careful observer this is not
mass-produced strength, but something
personal, something that matters to someone.
To the maker. To the sailing ship so well preserved,
to the sailors with their calloused hands
No one in the process can spare weakness, but
they know imperfections do not always equal flaws.
They are marks of something else, the muscled ropemaker,
the machine with its cast iron parts twisting
weakness into strength, one twist of the handle at a time,
marks of more than making, of character, of history
that does not die because a few care enough to remember
and live the old ways, sure as faith, and twice as strong
as a soul that has done the work, day after slow day,
of restoration, a painful maintenance to save
what matters more than perfection.
About this poem.
There is something valuable about the old ways. Even in constructing ourselves.
The picture is from a 19th century rope making machine at Mystic Seaport, CT.