They Will Sew the Blue Sail

“Harold Clough” | Ron Padgett

In 1895 or thereabouts

Harold Clough was born

in Calais, Vermont.

I knew him for the last oh

25 years of his life,

and deep into that time

I thought to talk with him

with a tape recorder running.

I never did.

You’ll never hear his voice

saying anything.

What a dope I am.

When he started driving a car

there was no such thing

as a driver’s license.

He was under five feet tall,

with huge hands and feet,

and his hair stuck out

from beneath his dirty baseball cap

like quills on a porcupine.

It didn’t bother him

to hold live wires

and he could find water

with a stick or coathanger,

it didn’t matter which.

The skin on his hands was so tough

he could just reach in

and take a pie out of the oven.

He showed me how to hold a nail

and at the same time

to drive it with a hammer,

using only one hand.

Around 80 he subscribed to Playboy,

amazed that he could see those girls

all totally naked and glowing, right there.

He once mailed a donut to my dog.

He knew how to lift a barn

all by himself.

One day I got a call from a friend

who said, “Old Harold just died.

In the hospital. Heart attack.”

About an hour later

the friend called back:

“Harold ain’t dead.

He come back to life.”

Not only that, when a nurse came back in

he was sitting up and smiling.

A few years later he really did die,

of a fire, in the house

he was born in.

I once asked him for his mailing address.

“You can put Harold Clough,

East Calais, Vermont.

Or Harold Clough, Adamant.

Or North Montpelier.

Woodbury. Or Calais.

Don’t matter none. It’ll get to me.”