Friday, June 26, 2020

The Foresters


The Foresters

We gathered wood for
a winter we'd never see;
not to keep others warm
but so each stiff tree's arm
yielding to the saw with a whistling sigh
would sketch a rune of twigs, a ghosted fire
to magic into being our desire.

We gathered fuel against a
north-blown frost, thin-sliver shavings
to take the match of want
to a bed of coals where we'd transmuted lie,
fuel for the flame as the flames rose high
from our wedding pyre,
ash on the smoke-rise snapping in the sky.

We tore that chainsaw through a scrub-oak sea, 
worked wedge and maul ignorant of what bleeds
at the quick mistake, at what would fall, 
gathering sticks
for a hearth we'd never be,
any more than the promise
of saw-dusted seed,

the marriage in the trees
dropped unburied in the broken green.

June 2017

A reboot of an oldie never blogged, 
 a twist on Monday's theme of culture and nature
posted for earthweal's Open Link

Images: The Wood Sawyers, 1850-52, by Jean-Francois Millet  manipulated    Public Domain
Landscape with Stump, 1892, by Ivan Shiskin      manipulated                       Public Domain


  1. A wonderful write. I especially love that "ash on the smoke-rise snapping in the sky."

  2. Annie Proulx's The Barskins has a similar vantage to this poem, the cutting of forest after forest in that saw-whine bite of desire. (The carnage was too much for me, esp. after reading Richard Powers' The Overstory). The friction here of desire, momentous and stolen like a rape re-committed with each virgin trunk's violation -- a diabolic greenwood marriage, inversed, master, of course, by Promethean device. A wedding pyre indeed. The heave-ho of these lines is an ancient saw-rhythm and the mythic characters here -- old culture-heroes, felling tree after tree to build ... this. No way these forest capitalists can be worthy of their daily meat, as Wendell Berry would have put it. Well fucking done H., and thanks for serving up so fine a vintage - Brendan

  3. Ah me, sometimes I read what you can do with words and feel that I should restrict myself to something on my level, like, say, Golden Books. Wow. I'm truly kind of speechless at what you've done here, and how you've done it. I especially like "a hearth we'd never BE" (emphasis mine), but to start quoting snippets back would be to insult this marvelously deft and heart-ripping poem. The bar, well, the bar...on some moon of Jupiter, I think.

  4. You've written a beautiful poem. Made me think of the book "The Overstory", which also touched my heart. You weave sadness with the beauty of your words. I also like your paintings. So lovely.

  5. "a ghosted fire
    to magic into being our desire."
    Great line. There's a depth and detail to your poems and a density of images, makes for very rewarding reading. I find that the poem slowly emerges after a number of readings. This, of course,is a good thing! JIM

  6. An amazing poem condemning the needless sawing and chopping of trees! You made me shiver with the whistling sigh of the saw and the violence in the lines:
    ‘We tore that chainsaw through a scrub-oak sea,
    worked wedge and maul ignorant of what bleeds’.
    I love the phrase ’rune of twigs’.

  7. last weekend we walked in the woods next to UC Santa Cruz, within sight of the Pacific. Signs told of 2000 year redwoods and sequoia that had been harvested in the late 1800's. The remaining stand, some of them 100 feet and up, are the youngsters that have sprouted and been protected (for now). Walking in the circle of new growth - where you know the old giants which once touched the sky rooted into earth, and in whose vacancy the young then found light - was sobering and sad. And yet, these new ones now grow. So that's something positive, yes? ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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