It’s not much to ask!

Another moment from remembered childhood.  After I wrote the poem I had to search the web widely to find a photo of the chainsaw, and finally found it on the Museum webpage of Gustharts Chainsaw Centre.  I asked Gustharts if I could use their photo, and Rob Gustharts approved and wrote  “I recall helping my dad to put this type of saw away from the log pile into the sawmill at the end of the day when the men who use the machine had left it out,and having to say stop one moment to give me a rest. It was all I could do to carry it at the helpers handle end. I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time.”


Photo courtesy of the Museum section of Gustharts Chainsaw Centre. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Can you lift it? That’s all you’ve got to do, just hold that end!

A small metal handle, sufficient for two clasped hands,
machine cut with a diamond pattern to prevent slip,
and at its end a brass tightener, flared like a butterfly,
for tensioning the man length razor chain into its sockets.

Fear loaded the weight for the eight-year old,
fear of the unknown needs of the allocated role.
His father had the bulk, carried by two handles
flaring from the Villier engine’s mass like horns.

Lift! Lift! Lift!
The beast now transposed across the trunk
of a recently felled oak, and poised to cut.

Hold it! Just hold it!
The clutch let in, the throttle thumbed to full roar,
the buzzing blade a savage blur inches from the boy’s hands
the smell of hot oil and exhaust fumes mixed with sawdust
a leitmotif for ever for achievement through fear.

Don’t let it bite!  Gently!  Lift!
The boy knew that a jam could mean the sprocket
would hurl the broken chain at him, an all embracing bite.
Steady the weight across the shoulders, keep the feet
wide and stable on the frozen rutted ground.

Forty four years later, after the funeral, the father’s sheds
were cleared, and the Teles two-man chainsaw,
which the family thought a myth, was found.
The steel teeth and the blade guides were rusted solid
but the son’s hand would not touch it.




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