by Jay Lake
Green deeper than the memory of seasons. Once whip-thin, growing like xylemic lightning toward the springtime heavens, now substantial and barked rough and full. Sap thundering, blood of the earth, slow, soil-driven thoughts. Aspiring upward, storing sunlight and rain and the dreams of a thousand generations of pine beetles.
Bright and sharp. Killing dull at the back. Made to swing in short, constrained arcs. Handle of polished ash which remembered another time and place, a man with a lathe, the feel of fingers and palms in a grip made to fulfill destinies. Carried-shoulder high into a blue-tinged wilderness across crackling whiteness and under the dripping arms of sky-high messengers of world’s faith in itself. Held low, pulled back, swung hard, bite. Bite. Bite. The blessed release, better than any animal rutting, as wood falls away and the metal edge triumphs.
Booted almost knee-high. Wrapped in cotton and wool and puffy layers like so many day-glo penguins. Laughing hot breath, small whines of mixed joy and cold-fueled boredom. An axe, a rope, patience, snow crusting on corduroy. Thermos of hot chocolate in the car, secret sack of candy canes for the trip back, bungee cords for the roof, atavistic ambitions of the Christmases like grandpa used to make but never really did either.
Carpet stained with old incidents of cracked sippy cups and incontinent cats and That Time With the Fire Place. Walls washed free of crayon. Windows with the baseball-torn screen. Winter dawn easing into the living room like an incompetent thief. A corner cleared of scattered DVDs and dropped sweaters to be replaced with a green memorial to the rebirth of the world, dying already with its amputated base braced in an old paint bucket filled with tap water and crushed aspirin and a lost caramel square. Dollops of desire and commercialism and overpriced love spread beneath in bright wrappings. The fat man straightens up, his back twinging, and thinks this is the last of the year, I’m going to sleep til February, maybe the missus will talk to me now that I’m out of the workaholic mania that takes me every autumn and God, he loves that old woman who loves him back like no one every did. Turning to leave, he pauses to plug in the green plastic cord.
A dadaist housebreaker leaves the roof dreaming of love amid the snowbanks. A parent rolls into another parent, both of them murmuring wonder that 6 am has come and gone without the thunder of small feet. A child emerges from sleep like a porpoise in the waves, visions of videogames dancing in her head. A tree stands in a corner, eye-bright and proud and mourning the sky-heights it will never reach, yet never quite so sad as it might be. The season of light has come again, and the days are growing longer.
“Merry Christmas,” whispers the axe to the rope.
© 2008, Joseph E. Lake Jr.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
|Originally published at jlake.com.|