Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Splitting Wood in Winter

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Today’s reader’s choice selected from past columns was submitted by Joan Amory of Portland. “Running through Douglas Woodsum’s poem,” she writes, “is the peculiarly American vein of practicality and earnestness -- a rich vein, found in much of our literature from Franklin to Thoreau to Frost, and even even in our art. Thanks to Mr. Woodsum for giving these echoes new voice.”

Splitting Wood In Winter by Douglas Woodsum

You’ll need a barn with a big door, the old-
fashioned kind that hangs on wheels, slides open
down a track. You’ll need a bare bulb, the sun
having sunk before your return from work.
You’ll need a splitting maul (the ax always
gets stuck), a medieval weapon perfect
for pillaging heat from the heart of hardwood.
You can plug in the portable radio
or just listen to the hush of the swing,
then thwack…or thoonk, the soft clinks or cloonks
of the splits falling from the chopping block
onto the old, thick, scarred floorboards of the barn.
You’ll need your hands to rip apart pieces
still connected by strips of unsplit wood.
You’ll need to load the canvas carrier
thrice, enough to survive the dead of night.
You won’t need reminding, “Splitting wood warms
you twice: once chopping it, once burning it.”
You’ll smile walking through the cold, back to the house,
your hot breath a harbinger of wood smoke.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Douglas Woodsum. Reprinted from The Lawns of Lobsterman, Moon Pie Press, by permission of Douglas Woodsum. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.