Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak


The man splitting wood in the daybreak   
looks strong, as though, if one weakened,   
one could turn to him and he would help.   
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood   
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel   
through the air so hard the hard maple   
leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do   
in countries reluctant to permit divorce,   
and even willow, which, though stacked   
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore,   
to the married-until-death—sunders   
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers,   
but they help us only by the unperplexed   
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones.   
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated,   
can't, even in spring, break through the hard earth.   
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do.   
We have to hold our children up to lean on them.   
Everyone who could help goes or hasn't arrived.   
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak,   
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me.

-- Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell, "The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak" from Three Books. Copyright © 2002 by Galway Kinnell. Reprinted with thanks. 


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