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GETTING IN THE WOOD

For R.C.

You swing your arms, and I can see the splitting maul
gather all your power to itself, just as that tree once
heaved the earth up to its topmost leaf. The maul head
strikes, the splits fall meekly to either side, in a rhythm
we hope is faster than the oncoming storm.

           You split;
I stack; the wind slaps at our skin and is rude at the door.
The smell of sap, anachronistic on this bitter day, rises
into our clothes and hair.

           Theunforgiving science
of hard labor absorbs us. I build twelve waist-high stacks;
One slyly sags and threatens the equation. At dusk you light
the stove. We watch the sun climb sleepily out of heartwood.

      — Kathleen Carbone