Source: Axe Handles(North Point Press, 1983)
The sour smell,
water squirts out round the wedge,
Lifting quarters of rounds
covered with ants,
“a living glove of ants upon my hand”
the poll of the sledge a bit peened over
so the wedge springs off and tumbles
ringing like high-pitched bells
into the complex duff of twigs
poison oak, bark, sawdust,
shards of logs,
And the sweat drips down.
Smell of crushed ants.
The lean and heave on the peavey
that breaks free the last of a bucked
it lies flat on smashed oaklings—
Wedge and sledge, peavey and maul,
little axe, canteen, piggyback can
of saw-mix gas and oil for the chain,
knapsack of files and goggles and rags,
All to gather the dead and the down.
the young men throw splits on the piles
bodies hardening, learning the pace
and the smell of tools from this delve
in the winter
death-topple of elderly oak.
Gary Snyder, “Getting in the Wood” from Axe Handles. Copyright © 1983 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.