The Woodcutter I Live With – by Katie Kalisz

Doesn’t let summer
keep him away from
his axe; the way it breaks
things into pieces
is a necessary violence
to keep us warm in
winter. He wears long
pants, heavy boots,
gloves, in the sudden
May heat- pauses
to yell something
to the children, always
aware of where they
play. The spray of
sawdust looks like
confetti, the only sign
of change. His arms
and back accelerate
into a surface that
constantly resists.
The axe moves
in a circle down
his left, over gray
hair. He reaches tall,
springing into his toes,
and forward, all his
weight committing
to each stroke again
and again, the same
futile action repeated,
moments of insanity,
like biting and biting
into a rock. He swings
into something he
almost can’t swing
through. It is not like
baseball, connecting
in the sweet spot; there
is no squishy bounce,
no long ball flying
to applause, no easy
follow through here, and
contact happens every
time. A perfect slugging
percent. What does he think
when the axe hits the
wood? Is it anger or
longing? I know he’ll keep
swinging until pieces
finally splinter off
and a final swing
splits the log, clean
like a nut. He has an
addiction to heartwood;
he finally rests his heaving
chest, stacks the pieces
in a neat pile. Allium bloom
near the large oak he has
dismantled. A hummingbird
watches him. When he comes
in he smells of sweat and
gasoline. A little smoke.
A little danger. Bringing
him a glass of water
feels like inventing fire.

katie_kaliszKatie Kalisz is a Professor in the English Department at Grand Rapids Community College. Quiet Woman, her first book, was a finalist for the 2018 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, The Michigan Poet, Red Paint Hill, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Unbroken Journal, among others.