Getting in the Wood

The sour smell,
      blue stain,
              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
       three-foot round,
               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.
Four cords.
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