Every day after school I’d go straight out,
In all weathers, and get to work:
Squeezed into my oldest coat, stripping
The bark from the straight branch of sycamore

I’d found in the woods. God knows what I thought—
I was possessed—chipping away
With the chosen edge of stone,
Watching the black crackle of bark

Stutter back to show a ray of pith,
Wood-flesh, light-marrow,
Chiming heart. With sore, nicked fingers
I’d stroke the petal-smooth grain

Then get back to it. Words rose to meet
The rising treasure, the offered, pulpy breath
Of pith—my branch of the family tree,
White as a skull, as cow’s milk, a staff

To lean on, something to conjure with.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27 Number 2, on page 28
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