Little board sliver slithers soft forked maple fangs into the palm of my hand.
It bit me. This thing I am ripping. Stripping.
Nibbling no more than an eighth an inch a pass.
Rabid dog mahogany.
Cherry red in the tooth.
Creamy peanut butter pine
with rotten streaks of jelly.
Forty five minutes on a sixty five year stump. Hands hurt.
Everything passes through them. Curled fingers on folded palms
grown out of vein wrapped wrists on click elbows. A stump like that,
that old, the very base of the very tall, will not part for a five pound splitter.
Barely dented. No splinter. The full abrasive weight felt sharp hard
vibrated in your hands. The stump takes none. It all falls on you.
That is five minutes in. Only you don’t know there’s forty to go
and you hurt clean up through your shoulders already.
But there is always a better tool. A heavier hammer. An independent wedge.
And a clearer head now knows the time and height and density
and fibrous energy and twisted splinter chorded towers. A mind
that now knows every one of sixty five years breaks down into hours,
and hours to minutes, and seconds begging roots dig deeper
in the earth to find good water, stumped trunk run up higher
above the heads of others in seek of weather
with lightning dentures that roll like thunder
and bring Prometheus’ fire to the forest
and burns us to make us stronger.
Never been anywhere other than the front yard of the lady
who just lost her husband, in the house up the road. Until
carried piece by piece in the back of a jeep
by the boy from down the street. Me.
Three iron wedges in and hitting it still not splitting it,
still, from the opposite side. Feeling each hit in his fingers.
Every one of sixty five years.
Each individual second within the whole of forty five minutes.
By the time you feel the full weight of time,
you’ll know, because your hands will hurt.
Up until a few months ago I had no chainsaw.
I still cut wood.
Sawed posts and beams to split into rails,
with a rusted, chipped red bow saw
and an arsenal of ax heads on cracked handles.
I even cut down a few trees that were huge to me. Literally towering.
And others might call them mid-sized to small.
No heavy machinery whatsoever and always alone.
I sought out shorter, easier obstacles to level,
seeking trees growing right on top of one another,
and trunks wilting bark with huge gaping rotted out spots.
I like to think the trees that need it were destined, in short time,
to fall already, but that thinking is flawed. Every living,
dying tree is promised this.
But not to be drug from the forest,
nailed into a structure, cut to length and piled for fire,
to break apart, disappear, in a location of my desire.
A tree aspires for the forest floor,
right where it dug and drank before,
every day of its rooted existence,
and I have to be okay with taking it.
And I always am.