Sunday, 29 July 2012

The blackberries are cleared away for another year

He walks down the concrete steps, the axe
tucked under his right armpit and blade
held in his tough right hand. He pauses

before the ground and searches the distant hills 
where grey sea otters float, crack muscles
on their stomachs - it will rain later.

Above his head a crow glides by, there
is a momentarily encasing in darkness
and then the sun regains the high ground.

The air is crisp, turns his breath to mist. The day
is bright, though the light is thick - as if he
is looking through a bathroom’s frosted glass.

He moves slowly to the wood pile where four
large sections of a tree await. The segments
are cut as if a surgeon dissected a giant worm.

Inside the wood is dark, where the insects
have won out, then the wood lightens
until the grey bark that encases and holds.

Behind him, the weeping willow watches, empty
in winter though soon the egg stealing curlews
will gather in large numbers. Sometimes thirty

or forty at a sitting, patient as the nuns from St Josephs
Home for Unwed Mothers; waiting for spring fornicating
to be done and the eggs brought forth to fill their bellies.

Before he hefts the axe, he studies the wood, searches
for the run of the grain; sees where the blade needs to hit,
swings in a blur then whacks the wood, slicing it clean  -

the first log tumbles into being.

He rests the axe, turns the stump and measures the spot
again. Whack, whack and then the next log -
like teeth from rotten gums, each log falls, formed.

The morning light drifts into the afternoon, the sea
otters draw close. The last of the stumps
is defeated, lies in logs around the chopping block.

He wipes the axe on his black t-shirt, rests it against the block,
bends at the knees and gathers several logs. He carries them
into the house , drops them into the wicker basket.

He hears her car turn into the gravel drive then the toot
of the horn she always greets him with. He smiles, turns
to the fireplace to hide his secret joy and relief.

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