Nancy: Trees fall, pastures fill in with young forest, but the landscape grows full and complex with stores, names, memories.
That Fierce Energy
The thickets were almost pasture
when time ran out.
He spared nothing, tractor, tree,
live rock; he fought alders, weather;
he chainsawed his neighbors with a rough tongue;
he bit off more than he could chew; he
helped; bitched; preached.
Right from the beginning I believe he did see
pasture, thick with sheep; smoke
rising from stone chimneys;
all his kingdom sound and green; painted;
mended; whole and harmonious.
We saw more, and less:
The house unfinished; the jumble of bulldozed stumps
and man-high weeds; the causes and crusades;
a raw and chafed look on land and friend.
No one ever really goes, in a small town.
Ten rough acres full of popple and spruce
and rotting stumps will be “Buck’s sheep pasture”
forever. I watched him sweat wife and kids and stone
all one summer: those chimneys are his.
Marriages dissolve, but the neighborhood is history,
indissoluble. We all own a piece, now, of
that fierce energy. No matter how the land goes,
we’re the owners of record of Buck’s dream.
Alan: Our first winter here, we ordered our firewood late, in tree lengths. The logger misunderstood our directions and dropped it off a half mile up the lane, where we sweated to get a cord or two chain-sawed and brought down to the house by the pickup load. Before we could split it, an ice storm encased it all in a half inch of glass. We spend winter days mopping up the meltwater from wood brought in green to thaw beside the stove for tomorrow, and mornings mopping up creosote that dripped out of the stovepipe through the cold night past.
Now we measure wealth in wood cut, split and piled a couple of years ahead, ready to go in the shed when seasoned.
Woodpile, Thanksgiving Day
piling the firewood.
the white-hearted maple pink-hearted birch.
throwing the cold junks higher than my reach:
not for this winter, no – not for next winter, no –
too pink too white too green!
two winters from now.
Will you still be here? Will I still be here?
“yes” says the firewood whatever the future holds.
“Junk”: a piece of indeterminate size; also a verb, as in “Got your firewood junked up yet?”
“That Fierce Energy” first appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.