by Thomas D. Reynolds
Pardon the old folk who forget themselves,
stripping away memory like so much dried bark.
If a certain confusion interrupts their tasks,
chalk it up to grief. The woodcarver’s dead,
stretched out in a pine box in the parlor.
No doubt, inside he examines the wood grain,
studying how yet to carve something beautiful
out of this knot-holed rotting stump called Death.
Or perhaps resigned, like an eager seed,
a sleeping embryo, he waits to be planted.
Lying there, he seems like one of his figurines,
an elaborate almost life-like portrayal
betrayed by pitted face and wooden grin.
Stoic, the old folks attempt to carry on,
turning to their tasks to trip up Death.
Just another day of clearing brush, they say,
chopping wood, mending the cabin’s slat roof.
Nothing to be gained by giving in;
honor the dead with an honest day’s work.
But the strain has caused them to go awry.
Or was it the boy, the woodcarver’s grandson,
who came to help them grieve and stirred them up,
until they’re uncertain as to who they are,
or what they do, which are one and the same?
Father Joe, the hunter, has lost his game.
No deer in sight, he still draws a bead
on Cousin Tom, a portly child of eleven,
lying on his back as if fallen from the sky.
A duel has erupted between two close friends,
Cousin Jack, World War I vet, and Old Sam,
the champion logger and self-declared tough.
Jack armed with a rifle and Sam with hack saw.
A group of children, nieces and nephews,
play a game of tag with the killer grizzly
that had killed several men before Grandpa
tracked him down and shot him in the brain.
Great Uncle Bob, with legendary appetite,
lies face down with head in the hog trough,
possibly passed out from his rank repast
Grandfather Marvin has forgotten his place.
Harnessed to the wagon, he shoulders it home,
with two pigs in the seat whipping him on.