Edge of the Axe
(a postponed revision of “The Carpenter” from 1966)
I grew in the roots all winter,
wine waiting to rise;
I mellowed in wood till you made me see
the luxury of chair and table
set in a frozen skeleton of maple.
So seeing, I cut and killed the tree.
You made what you wanted
and we moved on.
I swam in a rolling tide of pine.
All the coniferous, brittle
breathed into me
spirits of ordinary needles.
Then you began to see
how broad pine beams
build structure into dreams.
Again I saw timbers
toppled and trimmed,
treated for use.
Then I spoke in the oak’s rough tones,
grumbling green solidity.
I grew tough,
drew up gnarled and huge.
But soon enough
hard floors and solid stairs
called for the oak, broken and cut.
You cancelled the monument,
Kneeling about the base
of a towering cypress temple
tended by storks and egret priests,
I needed to grow to know the grace,
the grand patience of that place.
I rose to an insular spike of pride,
mystical spire spun with thin green,
when again at the edge of understanding
you stepped away and wanted
so your structures would stand
when you moved on.
Save me the still willows,
silent, to wait on.
Stay, let me sit a while,
shifting and watching,
sifting my will
(22 July 1975 — a good example of ruining a poem by revision?)