Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reminiscent this morning

Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt

I can remember my father bringing home spruce gum.
He worked in the woods and filled his pockets
with golden chunks of pitch.
For his children
he provided this special sacrament
and we'd gather at this feet, around his legs,
bumping his lunchbox, and his empty thermos rattled inside.
Our skin would stick to Daddy's gluey clothing
and we'd smell like Mumma's Pine Sol.
We had no money for store bought gum
but that's all right.
The spruce gum
was so close to chewing amber
as though in our mouths we held the eyes of Coyote
and how many other children had fathers
that placed on their innocent, anxious tongue
the blood of tree?

The winter brings me memories of cutting fence posts in the cedar swamps with my dad and my papa. Dad was always cheeriest when at hard labor in difficult conditions. I think he felt that his suffering somehow added meaning to his life. My papa was almost always cheery and the days went fast and I grew wild in imagination and reverence for the holiness of a cedar swamp. I did not put a name to it then but it was a holy place. Deer would come to feed on the tops almost as soon as they were cut. We bought the cedar posts from a landowner but they were still in the woods, living quietly as monks (glorifying God by just being cedar trees), so we spent our weekends and holidays cutting down cedar trees, just the right size, and trimming them of their branches, cutting them to length, hauling them on our shoulders through the knee-deep snow to a tractor and trailer parked nearby. The final step in making posts of them was to strip their bark from them leaving them naked against the elements. If they are stripped they last about 25-30 years in the Michigan soil but if not they'll rot in about 5 years. This poem and the snow piling deeper in my yard gifted me with that memory.

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