By definition, a screw
is basically a nail. An inclined plane
wrapped around a nail.
Designed to mate. The male thread
wants the female thread (said
the men who named these parts), as
external and internal want
each other. Facilitated
by a nut. Or perhaps alone:
some screws are designed to cut
a helical groove into soft material.
Once a woman wandered
alone through a stand
of pines, body cutting a groove
in air. Once a woman
drove home from work.
To walk is to lay a path; to root
is to anchor. The tool is versatile,
like the coyote, solitary
or running in a pack.
their heads at the woman
in the driveway, they between her
and her house,
lowered them so that their eyes cut,
six of them....
The common use of a screw
is to hold objects together.
What would we say held the pack
there, high on the ridge in El Cerrito?
In the middle of my neighborhood, she said.
They can be turned or driven—
turned or driven, until they reach
a bearing surface. A bearing surface
is often a head. It may, in this
instance, be a body.
Threaded. A bolt.
Another rule is this:
curl the fingers of your hand
in the direction you want the screw
to go. The woman’s hand gripped the leather handle
of the bag she carried—for to hold
is to wield, and it was a weight, it might act
as a bearing surface—
and she skirted them, back around
to the car door and slammed
herself inside, even as two advanced
The screw, in short, is any helical device:
Archimedes envisioned the threading
of one material into another by way of a plane.
To turn inward, to curl the hand, rather than
to force. That this would make a tighter bond.
A screw is not force but convincing.
The houses, anchored on the hillside,
fasten themselves to the edge of the woods.
Which used to be all there was. The coyotes
don’t know this in language, but
wilderness is threaded
into their bones. The woman sits
in her car at the top of the hill
in front of her house, punching the numbers
on her phone—
—police, fire, animal
control—as the sun melts into the bay,
its bearing surface. Pulling down the dark
like curled hands holding a blanket to the neck.
It’s a cold night. A fastener.
Meanwhile, animal footsteps.
The silent fieldstones of the drive.
The empty house. The landscaping
affixed gently, with generous spacing, so as
not to overflow the plat.