A man I know hews space
from trees. Hauls himself up there, days,
with his throw lines and slender cables, chainsaw
firmly looped behind.
He crawls over sycamores
and firs, up cottonwoods and the useless Siberians
like something absolutely unafraid.
Sky breaks through where he touches, white
against green and darker green.
Then sawdust, a powdering of light.
Each time neighbors stop to watch him,
fingering the heads of their children,
offering him glasses of water or milk.
Perhaps I exaggerate.
One time, he fell, straight through the branches
forty feet to the ground.
He broke his back, collapsed
a lung, though you wouldn’t see this now,
how his body has reknit itself
under the warm skin, under the raised blue-
black of his tattoo.
The yard outside my house is rusty
with the cry of magpies. An ice dam has choked
its ways through layers of shingle,
crawling inch by inch through the buckling eaves
toward the heated center of the house. And now,
this morning, the body of a deer
I drive past, its beautiful
brown hindquarters and muzzle frozen,
black moon of ice, black tongue.
This man leaves gifts:
a cord of wood, a squash, a hatchet, and once,
in summer, a bag of plums.
He sat in the crotch of a branch
and picked the small fruit straight
into a bag. I can imagine him, straining to reach
the branches higher then lower than his body,
the scent of the fruit, fingertips
oiling the dust skins.
I found them only after he’d left,
the lip of the white back peeled back
to the table, its purples
and red-greens aglow, pressed tightly together.