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The Faller

ISSUE:  Autumn 1993
The forest flakes away, like King salmon meat.
Each clearcut a plate of bones and skin.
A hundred and thirty feet above the ground,
fifteen hundred feet above the sea,
bushy Spring-green spruce needles
            in the hot blue air
humming with flies.
Far below,
the chain bites deeper into the pitchy flesh
the piston idles and the chain releases its grip
then the sharp crack of an axe against wedges
being driven deeper into the backcut.
The saw whines fresh.

This busheller’s head and eyes
dart like a bird’s.
Except for one gunny sack knee,
his forty-eight year old body is still agile
when most people’s bodies are burdensome sacks
hauled around without delight
for the act of movement.
Even if it’s only the honest finesse
with which one reaches
for a cigarette.

He repeats some words,
out of habit, like a spell:
Hey on the hill, down the hill!
And he lets the chain grab for more wood:
the chisel bit chain pours out long shavings,
long years, centuries.

The man is a drifter
only knowing the special struggle
that has occurred at each wooden altar
for hundreds of millions of acres.
But this tree’s roots have gripped this one spot
for four centuries.

The tree does not understand the man.
The man does not understand his times.
The times do not admit to any misunderstanding.

This high-slope, swell-butt spruce is the last
before the wiry and mean devil’s club
sweeps over the snow-melt
towards the salmon berry, wildflower summit.

Another crack of axe to wedge
and the old fibers finally shear inside
as the trunk loses itself in gravity
and breaks from the stump.
This oracle tended by odd worded ravens
watching the forest come apart
is finally converted to Christianity.
It’s just an export saw log now
but does the sky sag a little closer?
I can’t tell;
I have no silly machines
with which to measure and argue such things
but something immense feels damaged,
beyond measure,
at least that’s what the ravens say.


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