Firewood

Allan Johnston

Long ago I lived in the north

in a small house

with a wood cook stove.

I spent hours splitting wood.

I remember the yard;

 

piles of larch and tamarack

by the stoop,

and near the steps

an old, marred stump

I used as a chopping block.

 

In the splinters of my work

I would place the bolt, eye

the fine lines of fracture,

then step back

 

into a stillness

before the swing.  Then, the axe

rising high above my head,

one hand

would slide

 

along the shaft

give speed and grace

as the blade

cut through the years

unseamed the anonymous rings.

 

At night

coming home from the mill,

sky muffled with clouds

of the next big snow,

the car plunging down the dark drive,

 

sometimes the headlights would play

past the jammed axe

across a bolt

that shimmered with stars

of amber tears.

 

DSC00835Allan Johnston’s poems have appeared in over sixty journals, including Poetry, Poetry East, Rattle, and Rhino.  He is the author of five poetry collections (most recently In a Window, Shanti Arts, 2018), and has received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, Pushcart Prize nominations, and First Prize in Poetry in the Outrider Press Literary Anthology competition. Originally from California, he now teaches writing and literature at Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago.  

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