what the wood has taught me – by Chris Robey

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In fading light

 

my father and I

walk side

by side

 

long shadows cast

on frozen ground

 

It is late November and

the trees are bare

and open

 

At their edge,

the woodpile sits

as it has

for months

 

since we stacked

the logs –

 

thick sawed rounds

of red oak felled by

a storm in midsummer

 

My father wrests

a slab from the pile

then kneels,

running his hand over

the jagged saw marks. He

 

places his finger on the outermost

ring then counts inward

toward the pith.

 

“This tree was a seed

when Lee surrendered,”

he says with gentle

reverence,

 

then hands

me the heavy axe

 

We swing

high arcs and

at their zenith

drive

 

down through

our roots, aiming

at the cracks

that formed

 

as the wood froze

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then thawed

and froze

again —

 

a cycle

of release

before

 

a cold pause

 

The axehead glances

a ringing blow

 

and we take turns

answering swing

for swing, until

they carry

through

 

The heartwood yields

a rich, dry smell —

it is fine, straight-grained

until we near the bottom

 

where the whorls

wound tight, now

laid bare –

a knotted core,

 

a history

 

that held the

rest

together.

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