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Felling a tree with Tommy Twilite’s poetry advice


                           for Tommy


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

smiling eyes

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?

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