Alone in the family kitchen

butcher and son lean over the sink,


the boy’s chin on his elbows,

eyes on his father’s rhythmic stroke


of the blade, side over side up and down

the length of the sharpening steel,


tracing the edge with his thumb,

warning “Don’t you do this — not yet,”


not knowing the boy would not have dared

for fear of slicing himself and seeing the blood


squirt into the air or hearing his father

shout at him for not knowing about


the dual nature of knives,

the unforeseen consequences of being dull


Knowing now to swipe the blade precisely,

hold its honed sharpness from the sharpener,


the boy knows by his father’s grunt he has pleased him,

a son who will know how to keep his knives sharp