Joey the Carver

July 2018

Joey sits in soft focus. Behind him, blue skies and bright murals paint a backdrop easily mistaken as exotic. Festival flags rally. Paving stones undulate drunkenly up the lane. Streetlamps, tagged out to the sun, sleep off their graveyard shifts. A canopy of shadows waves like a palm tree.

Photo by Ritche Perez, Ritche Perez Photography

White dust emanates from Joey’s lap, his hands busy like fire-making. He holds concentrated friction, pushes up against rock. Fine ash falls into the folds of his pant legs, the burn pit of his knee, and the smallest of crevices on the corner of George and Water, a space he reclaims every spring.

Joey’s desk is a shanty in greying plywood. Concrete planters fortify, and shelve his tools. There are rocks in his milk crates and chisels in his grocery bags. His recliner is pallid with exposure. Carvings are his currency: whale tails for the cruise ship ladies, hash pipes for the locals. The physical manifestation of his time in the soapstone of auction prizes and dining room curios.

Carving out a niche for himself: the headlines come easy to aspiring writers on the beat. The statue and its maker. The spectacle of all our dreams and fears – of finding that sublime space where what we’re good at is what we love and what we love is what we do and what we do is all we can – but will it still be enough?  “All the nine to fives survive,” Ron Hynes once sang, before he turned to stone – a permanent fixture, a glimmer of hope – for anyone paying attention.

Joey’s brow is an outcropped ridge. His eyes hiding-caves. His arrow nose an ancient artifact. The vertebrae of his knuckles, the ribs of his grip, already fossils. Like spring run off, sweat carves a brook down his cheekbone. Ghostly fingerprints appear on his shirt sleeve each time he wipes there. Marshy stubble scarves his neck, growing into the gritty fibres of his wool crown: a sunrise horizon, a yellow stripe, emerging in the dark.

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