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ISSUE:  Summer 2005

A few men in Milton, West Virginia,
have it. They go to work in cut-off jeans,
tee shirts and sneakers, casual as
going to the park for a softball game.
Each begins his day by dipping
a hollow steel rod into molten glass
the color of egg yolk, and twirling it
to hold the roundness, keeping the form,
making it look easy as stirring
your coffee, though it must be more like
spinning a swirl of the sun. Then back
and forth to the furnace’s glory hole,
2100 Fahrenheit, lest it cool and crack,
knowing gravity wants it, and just
how much breath to send through the rod
and how fast, lest it wobble into
a cartoon bubble, as lopsided with hot air
as a politico’s promises, and crash
to common glass on the floor. Sprezzatura,
a High Renaissance word for the skill
and recklessness that releases grace,
a seemingly offhand act that conceals
the pains taken. This gaffer seated
like the chief alchemist has it,
and accepts in silence that rod
and molten ball—blue now, from a turn
in a serious vat—rolling it, concentrating,
a touch and a tweak with tools dipped
in water. A nod here and there, but nobody
has said a word. This long-necked
exclamation appears to be their gloss
on the nonchalance of those
who play with fire.


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