It’s all in the heft

Back to events again, with a eulogy to empiricism.  I had to draw my own image for ‘rise like tonsured heads  from a pile of piano keys’, but that’s not really surprising.



Three men and a boy formed a deft wooden band,
a ritualised practice, a customised performance.
Underneath the Tilley lamps sibilant hum,
the ponderous bass beat of the slabber’s axe
overlaid the tinkle of tumbling kindling.


Four oak chopping blocks formed a rough circle
the tallest at the slabber’s string bound chair
set at arms length from his high wooden altar
where seasoned logs were precisely butchered
quartered in parallel by the hand axe  blows.
Around this pinnacle the slab stock sheltered,
prey for the kindler’s flying  hooked blades.
Three splitters on chairs with short sawn legs,
their knees splayed apart by blade kissed stumps,
curved around the edge by the bill hooks bite,
to rise like tonsured heads from a pile of piano keys.

Each evening’s concert began with the slabber,
whose steady off cuts the hooked bills snared,
and yanked to perform on their lower stages.
Straight grain was the score for regular rhythm,
to ensure the steel gannets repeatedly dived
to cleave in fractions each wooden slab,
lightly touch the oak blocks’ bedrock
then soar to air for another swift strike,
with frenzied call of a one note xylophone.
Low voices perfunctorily formed a soft fugue,
a contrapuntal discourse that didn’t foul the beat
as the rising wooden notes smothered cramped limbs
on the endless chill evenings it took to chop a load.

For the nine year old there was much to perfect,
from the mastery of the edge that made wood fly
to the slow conversation that made life sharp.

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