blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




A boy is stacking two full cords,
carrying each split log in his skinny arms

from the driveway, where the old farm woman
whose husband's recent stroke has left her

alone in this business, dumped them
haphazardly before dawn. When he left

for school, it looked like a giant scrap heap
of dead leaves and oversized toy logs—like the remains

of one of those elaborate structures
he and his friends would blow up or knock down

shortly after construction.
Now his mother's red Ford Escort slouches

stupidly behind the scrambled logs
where the tow truck cut it loose,

tilting heavily toward the driver's side
where tires collapse against bent rims and the red metal

of the body cringes, bashed in
like a crushed loaf of bread. His mother

was sideswiped today by a truck.
She was knocked unconscious right there

in the driver's window, which is now
just a few haggard shards clinging to the edges

of its frame. He is stacking the wood
neatly, in the sturdy, overlapping design

his father taught him, on the porch still stained
with the blood of a fat cardinal

his cat had slowly and emphatically torn to pieces
in front of him last week. The boy works

without resting, without even smelling
the fresh split cherry or walnut, sculpting the stack

as he goes, each pie-shaped end
facing out and pointing

the same direction, a monument of firewood
rising to his own height, against the dark, west wall

of the house where his mother leans
from her upstairs bedroom window, calling

that she is fine, that he should take a break.
But he doesn't look up. He keeps stacking and stacking

as if it were art—as if it weren't meant,
after all, to be burned.  

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