THE WOOD PILE
(This poem appeared in The Licking River Review, Volume 33, Winter 2002/Spring 2003.)
The chopped wood stacked against the fence
Like motherhood over and gone.
Some logs retain a tough grub of dry black bark,
Only a shred of the whole sleeve of seamless vertical trunk.
Others are raw heartwood,
A splintering of soft and creamy insides turned out,
All laid horizontal,
One next to the other, one straddled atop two others,
In nested rows, like coffins of themselves,
Under a shroud of plastic to keep them dry.
This wood has lost its tree form.
Does it remember the command of a full forest view,
From fern, clover, and moss bottom to feathery top,
Above helter-skelter insects, stealthy mountain lion, and sleeping owl,
Standing tall for what must have felt like it was sure to be forever?
From the middle of the woodpile, one piece,
Not hacked into a triangular, trapezoidal, or other non-arboreal shape,
But round and whole, one intact branch segment,
Peers out at me with an unblinking eye
Formed by a clean cut across the whirling circles of its grain.
With knowledge of sorrow, but not sad,
With knowledge of joy, but not happy,
It waits with me
For a turn
To revivify in flame,
One last wild dance.