The Metaphysics of Lumber


My father wanted to split the chore I’ve put off. For weeks he kept coming into my room, “Yo espero that you are looking up how to cut trees on that computer I helped you buy.” Other days it was, “Yo espero that Aristotle is teaching you the metaphysics of lumber in those books you read.” Today, he just says “por favor.” We walk to our yard: dead branches curl up like the ribs of a giant ancestor. He chopped them; now I have to cut the trunk. He hands me a chainsaw. I start to make a bird’s-mouth cut. Less than an hour passes and I’ve made the saw overheat. Oil as dark as my hair seeps out. He takes it back to his workshop. As we clean it, he tells me about his childhood in Cuba. Forced to climb coconut trees with a machete in his belt, harvesting fruit he would never eat. To cope with the heat, he wondered if clouds tasted like vanilla or coco. His dry, deadwood tongue made him yearn for the Czech dust—real dust— used as toothpaste at the time. The chainsaw is clean again. We carry it out. His back is shot, so he sets it on the ground. I start the engine. Once it roars, I hand it to him. As he slices, wood fibers fly out into fireworks.

ALEJANDRO LEMUS-GOMEZ was born in Miami, the son of Cuban exiles, and now lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains. The 2017 recipient of the Rhina P. Espaillat Award from West Chester University, he studies English and philosophy at Young Harris College in North Georgia. His poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Reunion: The Dallas Review, the Indiana Review, and other journals.