The Wood Conductor


There was no sign of a woodcutter
in the tin shack raised from the red earth,
the black wood of an archived forest.
Dismembered trees haunted the air,
ghosts in the pungency of cut pine.

A tepid cup sat by a soiled plate
and a radio murmured, low music
both there and not, a particle of time.
The businessman walked on rutted mulch:
sawdust, wood chips, a chainsaw’s rainbow.

A stacked fist of trunks lay seasoning,
patient for the weather to do its work,
sap congealing, slow as a slug’s thought.
Below a tarp shelter a wheel of teeth
stood idle by a pyramid of logs.

A robin hopped and sang, leading him
to the buzz-cut limit of the yard
where chestnuts murmured their faith
in the promise of approaching summer
and two magpies rattled like maracas.

His black Oxfords were crusted with mud
and a spurt of the timber-yard’s filth
wrote a warning  up his pin-striped leg:
Leave. Leave now!
He loosened his tie, removed his jacket,

rolled his thick shoulders as if wriggling
from a chrysalis, detaching his spine.
The robin was still singing loudly,
music not written in ink on a stave,
but in the helix of the bird’s DNA.

Stepping onto a flat topped stump
with a thin wand he began conducting
the sounds, a fugue concealed in the tune
from the cutter’s radio, the bird’s song,
all the wild woodwind of the forest.