Quartered deadfall from the hills, oak cut
to length, fresh still the smell of woodgrain,
a cord to heft, to calibrate angle and curve,
to fit, to balance high the stack
in rootless equilibrium.
As if to make a windbreak, stone on stone,
beside a mound of leaves—each leaf from its birth
notch to the black meld of compost—
I build on the birch I cut
and parceled last summer
and on the apple limbs trimmed,
their evenly spaced
woodpecker’s chiseled wells—
instinct’s measured patience,
the belly’s need.
Migrant, flocking in, or piling up,
clouds west of here, gray on gray
arrive from the sky pyre
dying out—the sky a vault now,
a stone basin overturned.
Back again, yesterday’s rain
to freeze, to splinter,
to rot what is, comes slowly on
the wind above the chill stillness.
The stack is made,
the tarp spread over for the rain,
for snow on this starless night at this return
to Standard Time, years of sap-driven life to burn,
to keep a self warm, to sleep awhile
down through ages of root and stone.