JACK MARTIN

 

Rip Saw

In the wood of my son's sleep,
a rip saw gestates.
Here, in the belly of the canyon,
smoke blows upstream to us.

His breath is a clock,
turns, falls into dust.
Around the camp, breath opens her hands
and offers what freshly cut — the smell,

the time, pine, or cedar. Cedar,
the red and yellow dust of his sleep.
Dainty curls of wood, firsts, seconds.
How does a saw work?

How does a flame work?
What opens the cells of the wood,
chews wood's hearts,
severs wood's connections?

Is the blade inertia's whirlpool,
an accumulation of little cuts pushed forward?
Is flame a mouth?
How many teeth are on a saw blade?

The earth is a galloping horse.
How many distinct little cuts does a blade make
as it severs a branch from a tree?
Or should we say second hand?

What is the sound of one tooth cutting wood?
The raspberries say juice.
A window says distance.
Weather says snowstorm.

Uncountable teeth set a humming in the blade
that drains the belly.
Divide that hum by the number of teeth.
Is there a way to say this without shivering?

The campfire smoke comes back.
This is what happens before the cold of the cut
on the lip of the canyon.
Who could not see it? Winter

made me think, "brush fire."
It is the ice saw and the log of snow.
I said it and ran upstream
into the smoke. I should have run —
I put my hand on my sleeping son's chest —
into the river. I should have run
to touch his breathing. Steady,

into arms. I should have run.