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Those times in the clearing, a startling bald spot,
like the one on his head, the crown men grow to hate,
I tried to speak to him. Useless for work, boy.
So log by log, I stacked the wood as instructed,
criss-crossed, one over another, and built a tiny fortress
I might burrow into with the other unfed creatures
of whitening light. How could I not guess pieces
of my castle would go up in flames each night?
Each indigo morning, Daddy dragged me from bed
to be his stacker, his helper in winter’s manly art.
I’d held only #2 pencils, smooth, yellow as the axe’s
handle, until these cold mornings of males alone.
Daddy didn’t care to hear this and chopped more
logs faster, the fury of his forearms a hot blur.
That metronomical swinging demanded warmth,
small rooms without electric heat, kindling, sticks.
Calloused and betrayed, cut red, my small hands
stared back at me in wonder. All the pencils
in the world, boy, and what comes out of them
don’t teach you how to be a man.
Copyright 2017 Billy Clem