Swedish Auger

I remember the first sweet Swedish Auger
because it made perfect, rifle-barrel holes
through three feet of quartz-hard winter
shaving cherry-syrup-snow-cone-saw-dust
with a razor-sharp, three-quarter moon
that looked like a giant spatula-shaped spoon
with a sky-blue shaft that turned
like an agile brace-and-bit made by the hands
of some ice-fishing carpenter
who slapped his head one day and understood
what no one knew about ice and wood. 

This is the first memory
I have of magic.

I remember that first sweet, Swedish Auger
because my arms still can feel
the heft of heavy, spud-bar steel
that made my shoulders scream
with pain I could scarcely bear
and burned my lungs
with sharp, pine-needled air,
snot froze on my lips
and curls froze in my hair. 

I remember the gravity of those men
on the last, stomach-wrenching stroke,
who warned me not to lose the bar
when that tempered steel finally broke
through to the depths of winter lake
which filled the hole with a chug
a dipped bucket would make. 

I can hear their voices once again
and cramped around the shaft
my fingers ache
with a hundred strokes of remembered weight
as I drove the chisel beyond
my last inch of fragile manhood
and the heavy-shouldered men, blowing clouds of frost
called it good, “That’s good,” they said,
remembering something they had lost. 

“That’s good, they said and some calloused hand
took the steel to bell and shape
the bottom of the holes and I was feeling warm and grand
and shoulder-wide in my winter wool and leather
while the hole was tailored to the size
of fish so big
we would have to make up lies
about the coordinates of our catch,
our choice of bait and probably the weather,
and hope to smile in black and white
with our fingers in the gills of a trophy lunker
for the outdoor report of the “Lakeland Times”
which, for every week,
rolled up our cozy, necessary lives
in out back pockets
and I was happy ice fishing on island lakes
where I was born
and had not yet heard
of Swedish Augers.