Molecules of steel float from the ivory-handled razor,
a shower of microscopic metal
that creates a permanent sheen
on the looped leather strop
his grandfather grasps with a scarred right hand.
The left hand guides the angled blade up and down,
over and over, restoring its cutting edge
one gentle stroke at a time.
Every day, the strop shrinks the razor,
eroding it as gradually
as the wind sharpens an Arctic dune.
The strop hangs through a ring
pinioned to the bathroom wall beside the sink.
It’s black and slick and shiny,
nicely sewn together with zigzag stitching.
But the boy there brushing his teeth
has no regard for the strop’s esthetics.
All that matters is its secondary duty as corrector
of obstinacy and other household felonies.
Each time his grandfather takes down the strop
to reinforce his commands, he whets
the boy’s rage one whistling stroke at a time.
(November 19th was the International Day on the Prevention of Child Abuse.)