Posted by: Peadar Ban | November 10, 2011

Working In Wood

Not so long ago a friend wrote a poem which started me thinking and led to a short three way conversation between the two of us and my wife.  My friend, Pavel, is a good poet who pays attention to his craft.  He tries to write at least one poem every day, and succeeds well at it.

Take the other day, for instance, when he wrote something he titled ” Butternut”.  The Butternut is a tree, also called the White Walnut.


Light through crimson dogwood leaves

Makes them tremble, crimson rubies –

Do souls at death display that when

Existence in the body ends?

Does such suffused intensity

Predict a veiled immensity?

Does life within the deep root dwell?

Does it remain, perpetual?


Once I saw the garniture

A princess of the town of Ur

Was buried in when she was old,

Leaves of deepest beaten gold

That formed a necklace and a crown

Of leaves and blossoms to astound,

But just as golden even more

The butternut, the leaves it bore                                               


                                                                        November 9, 2011

I really like to read Pavel’s stuff, though stuff seems hardly the word to use.  His writing seems to me sometimes to be a sculpture of light, shimmering inside my mind as I read, and after as I remember and look at the images he’s built.

As I read this poem a line bubbled up from somewhere and I scribbled it on a pad of paper I keep in front of me at my desk: “I stepped across the tree that fell.”   I was thinking of the big oak that had fallen in the storm that brought an early wet and heavy snow, and, at the same time, the “princess of the town of Ur” in Pavel’s poem. That those two thought should be joined struck me as very odd.  After all, what could link a dead princess to a fallen oak?  I don’t think I’ll ever find out, but my attempt to try doing so led to writing other lines until something was finished, at last, about a half hour later.


As I stepped around the tree that fell
Across my yard last Saturday —
Missing the rhododendron bush
But razing a young forsythia —

I looked down on jagged stump to see
Where once not so long ago
Chipmunks lived comfortably
Among the roots and rocks.  Below

The sandy thin New England soil.
They were safe in their oaken hole
With solid tons of wood above.
Who’d notice the little bit they’d chewed

To make their way inside, and down?
Now I think of it, I suppose
It must be that way with the soul.
A little bit, a hole, is torn…

Roaming invaders creep soon in.
There was rot within that hole
Where harmless chipmunks stole
The room that killed a living thing…

So small, the first bite is hardly seen.
Invisible the rot within
Grows, blackens heartwood as sin
Blackens souls once whole, once green.

PEG  Nov. 9, 2011

Like I said, Pavel carves light.

I work in wood.


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