Felling a tree with Tommy Twilite’s poetry advice
This tree was even bigger than the one we’d brought down together.
I was going to try and drop it into a gap in the woods to the left,
but after tossing my throw bag up towards a crotch about 35 feet up –
about 20 times – I realized I had burned a hole through my glove
with the friction from the string and burned a hole through the skin
of my finger as well, so I reexamined the prospect and decided
the tree really wanted to fall to the right. The blood was minimal.
Then I stood behind this one-hundred-and-fifty foot red oak
with the twelve-foot circumference and a large black gouge
at the base where carpenter ants had chewed their way in.
I thanked the oak for the air, for the shade, for the shelter
for all the tiny creatures, for the fungi, the lichen, and now,
for the wood which will keep our house warm. I decided
to make my mouth cuts higher than usual, to guard against
any surprises from the weakened trunk.
As I leaned into the cut, I saw that the metal gripping teeth
beside the bar of the saw were missing a screw and dangling.
This was going to make the job more challenging, but I wasn’t
about to stop now. I finished the first mouth cut about one-third
of the way in, just as I wanted. The second cut was more difficult,
not having the leverage I would have enjoyed from the gripping teeth.
The wedge-shaped void revealed the heart of the trunk, black and punky,
even here, five feet off the ground, channeled out by the ants. But I thought
there would be enough good wood around it for my hinge.
Finally I made the back cut, easing past the center of the trunk,
about four inches above my mouth cut, until I heard a creak.
The tree tipped forward about five degrees and I stepped back
about five steps. I stepped up and cut another inch, and the tree
tipped forward a couple more degrees and stopped. I looked up.
A branch near the top on the side was leaning against a branch
of a neighboring tree. Otherwise, the oak was aimed right
in the direction I had planned. Cutting more of the hinge was risky.
So I decided to hope for some wind. Then I decided to go to my shed,
grab my digging bar. Maybe I could pry into the space I had opened
with my cut, and lever the tree past the offending branch. Considering
the tonnage of the oak, I knew it was a long shot. As I walked back
from my shed through the trees, with the iron bar on my shoulder,
there was a swishing, a crashing, several booms, breaks
and a slam, as the giant hit the earth. Call it luck, call it prayer,
call it poetry. You should have been there. It was awesome.
Jim prides himself on being part Irish
just like his father
whose parents were both
from Italy, though
in all fairness
his father did have
and played a fine fiddle
until his elbow
took gunfire in ‘44.
So of course when Jim’s nephew
asked him if he liked oats
he said yes, feeling
his Irish roots, and when
the nephew called
to say he left the bag
by the backyard gate,
Jim was puzzled, but
not as puzzled as when
he walked out and found
a fifty pound sack
of whole oats
from the feed store.
You would need a grain mill.
And Jim lives in the suburbs
no goats or cows.
His wife said put it out
on the curb
someone will take it.
When I came to visit
Jim showed me the oats.
Just the thing I could use
to plant a cover crop
in my garden.
So I took it off his hands.
And say what you will
about his nephew
he has a good heart
mows their lawn
and tends their flowers.
free of charge.
The privileged boredom of happiness is not for us
We’re going out
to look at sculpture all day
at a private park closed
for the past fifteen years.
Not only are we going,
but we are taking with us
the legacy of decades
we cannot escape.
It’s a lot to hold
all the mistakes, hard
to remember happiness, pale
against the body of upset lingering.
We will always be
on the edge of joy and misery.
Time to go.
Do we have everything?