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.