fetter the pine

by Abraham Smith

the love of a good pine     last white pine
lightning’s staggers can’t get at it   but I will climb

I the lost ox of hawks highland farm
I the two I lube stuff hands
I the one hand pulled back bow string
I the arm muscle dedicated to the hay bale heave ho
I the eyes boxed by pine like shackled ones

I the mouth that shut down   I won’t shut down no more

I the tongue scoured by beer’s freckles and pebbles
I the ear keen to silk and thorn coyote moan
I push them from the drum to the dream of golden wine

I open mouth wide for rushed sun now   I sing the bird’s dawn salt now

I sing the song of the pine   like a barrel now   a gun of green now
I climb like a honey bear   I slam into what there is
I love you all    I eat your footfall   I thaw my spine now

I ask you to remember    lips moving now
remember this    lips moving now
one day in a dark room    dance to my lips moving now

I sing of the north of Wisconsin   not far from the glitter lakes
near the paper mill factory   take a left at the dead deer   take a right at the shotgun
I sing of Ladysmith Wisconsin     of Rusk County    gusted down

all my house encased in ice   grandpa of the eaves   grandpa of the trees
the whisker white as pain   the white welfare check
the green food stamp   grey of on its way to black
grey beards grey gravels grey groans

ten below with wind chill   rinds of getting ground down leaves
snow braided to snow in a wavy    trick you up funny car hot rod hey

I leave my belt’s last hole    I leave for holelessness
and the icicle wanting the ground

I go find a nail    I find ice    I pound another hole    lord I do pound down

oh extra gravy oh gristle oh hamhock oh tipped cups of flame

before the robin reads the hinge    in the drawl of falling leaves

before more snow gathers   in butcher packages   along the fall lines of your arms
for ice and deer hunts   make you impossible

hey white pine    I climb    I drink I sing I gun    I clamber climb

I bark like a sore tooth dog now

the robin’s brain is the squirrel’s   I have a squirrel’s driving tail
I have a white rabbit’s foot    my knuckle is the size of why   the squirrel can’t find
what   the squirrel    clawed   through   earth   to   save

the lost on me merriment of snow in wind

silence like ketchup pushed to the back of the fridge

my fish out of water tipsiness    my load of cayenne
my feel    oh I am feeling each punch of wind

I get a little drunk on cans of PBR and start the climb
I am come to get drunk   and give and receive green

of numb and soup and gristle and fire I sing

this coyote’s mournful bubbling this won’t you come to me
canned corn and canned beans   heat them on the stove
fool them into thinking sweaty day   sun   be be

ink dragged out of paper   by the oil in a donut left    on the Ladysmith News
if you want to find me   drive north till you need chains   on the tires
look for the beard and eye look for the chocolate bearclaw fat on the Ladysmith News
sad report of the break in at the school   and the damage that was done
the new bridge out on county H   coming along nice
Danielle Izkepski    arrested for bad checks

my elbow sore from leaning    I look out at a ghost
snow braids and forks   my hand in love with my chin

the soup trying Spanish   the snow flakes approach    in one inch pieces

the horse   in his flurry house   snorts once and runs
the deer bones the red plastic bat    the chewed on by my collie ball
deerflies and houseflies    all incidentals erased arrested    by light out   babble   snow

winter cold junks me    for a while I sat    in the red engine    of falling leaves
said I’d take the ride    to where leaves go

now I ask the window please   what craft is this white sheet?
and will it show me past Worden’s farm?

give my wrinkles to the mandolining pine   for I am its grandson and this is true
though some days I do stand out   along the falling leaves
they do brush against me   I do throw my arm out   like the fret of a guitar
the maple leaves do strum my arm veins   the leaves do play Hank Williams
with me on me for me to toe me tiny tiny bird above above avow

frost window I have as eye    sumac I eye as candle

let us burn bone and all and climb to the pine’s open arms
to the natural broken place where   bullets blue jays and rut bucks   slide around

let us slop ourselves like rut bucks in and in

choke the suet I laid in a net down   I pound net and fat to the birch
how you pound the dead for life   dear downie woodpecker
I am the grandson of a lumberjack   I have a lot to learn

I want a garden I can swing at for green    I want a cow and a calf
s of cow milk and double-a eye of calf hollerings
I want blue thread for when things rip   I want to shake hands with a
I got the d.t.s chainsaw   wash with diesel   eat boiled potatoes   smell of gas still on

I want some metal to bake things    I want the dog to know my joy
I want raw honey and raw milk cheese    I want a letter from you
ink pushed out of the L in love    you did not wash the honey from your hand
your smell dropped a rag in my ave maria room
your hair fell like basil on my jesus house

I want knee deep silence   I want my old man knees to ache a little   not a lot
enough to say now look up for the geese are going now   look up for the moon is
pulling teeth    out of the heads of hammerhead sharks    days by car away

I am a man in a farm house   landlocked and a liar    a crier and a fighter
a new foal blinking snow out of the eye

I run    my mouth open    the dog his tongue showing runs too
we cool our eyes with snow   I pull down my thirst in icicles
chew the ice carrot   ice microphone   throw one to the dog
he sniffs what he thinks is a bone and strong    see his teeth snap it too easily
see his ears go down   see his eyes look at me like I said veterinarian

to sleep to sleep    I sing to keep my teeth in good with my tongue

dead truck out to pasture   throw snow balls at it
get the deep woof of a ball on rusty steel
everything has a job   the truck keeps muscle on my arm
the dog says a deer walked past this spot the snow says the same by scars

and I walk the block three miles around
past the Dowd’s and the Worden’s and the abandoned farm
and I walk against cold and I walk for ice that melts
walk on the roman numerals of crows descending
in the halved Bartlett pears of doe and buck track
in the melon and matchstick of the blackbear descending

deer live until November old November oh November air
all lead and kicked with men drunk then shaky
then floaty then weavy   they aim   and fire

all day snow milks me   for I am no bolder than the calf in the pen
we worry and wait out our hungers the same
ask the sun to gold mine us ask the moon to cast us unbroken

eyes do twice the job of hands   eyes do nicely
but I get weak in hand    I hide a cow’s hunger for grass and drink
I look for the woodcutting gloves again   I tingle and numb and go maddeningly warm

the birches tune to crackling   the river kicks soft in the seat of its pants
the woods is a well might outswing harmonium fetching fell fell place
the wood furnace is a white and red shatter of wind shined beams

the rabbit in the chicken cage   her tin of water freezes in one hour
she knows to drink hard then wait

the chickens are escaped gears from grandfather clocks
they puff up hunker down whir like low battery cars or the end of time
the chickens   are   time   yeah   yeah   yeah

the white pine life by sun and rain and wind    my climb   by   it    I claim it
though the tree does not know me from an owl    with a rabbit in
cottontail rabbit eaten whole in    one swooping down

I get aggressive and say   your vinyl chins are mine
your starchy cheeks are mine   your fish bone body mine
your shucked brown needle bone   your lime old green breath mine

I learned to kiss girls by kissing just caught fish pillows and pines
any gold I panned was sun filleting pine the first five girls were
bluegills goosestuffed rectangles and pines

see me blow smoke rings

a goose has no pride   proud he jerks into the v   and is gone

I have watched them trying out their wings    jolly jolly is my second name
pines on left aspen on right    black and blue
the stars goopy fresh    they snap back off   out
duck and goose and star at dusk    ride on pencil lead rubber bands and petroleum
their loping circles their callings and hits on deep bog lakes
their deep skissing sounds    they are very fast and proud

I sing hot no no   I sing a high dance of saws   and ancestor jacks

for my grandfather thickened his soup   with his grandfather’s jacket
worn to a fade   in the hoppes fields of Germany
and how he broke at noon to tank beer   how he cut things wrong after

my grandpa was an axe and river man   hungry from birth till the day he died
he killed things smooth and easy as the river water before storm
rode the river logs    mill bound    like a rodeo star
before   railroads    rivers   were gonna have to be straight enough
he had to prod the logs like cattle   he was a cowboy of agua
his horse was timber   his Rocniante was a log and going down stream
see about a table   pound in as a house wall     where children   yes   one old day

his first wife was river rapids   his second wife was bumpy rides
his third wife was white pine   his fourth wife was Monica
his fifth wife was shakiness   his sixth wife was fish guts my my

half grandpa quarter goose quarter pine   whiten now   wink at the milk bucket I ay

he was out on a log jam   he pulled the right log then the logs liked him
many arms of a windmill monster   oh they used him   the river fed his bits to
the fish    the fish unzipped him to the bone   sang him thin

if I could go back I would Paul Bunyan my gramps from the logs
throw him up into the big dipper like a hay bale
Bill I’d a thrown you high   got you drunk on   off milk and lack of oxygen
you’d a died softly for a couple thousand years
I’d a leaned my head back and pushed you higher on your hammerhead shark fed swing
you’d a hit the moon sand box hard   the sky woulda snowed your hitting
and lo with a wrongheaded joy    for broken fathers   and fathers of fathers
passed out in wet hoppes fields   for you and you I sing

I am a river man   I am a snowshoe man   I am a pulping man

I have come    from the rib of a coyote    I have come    from bill’s syrup
I have come   from the shying squirrel    I have come from the dog eye squint

I plunge hands into diesel gas and saps and birthing cows

I kiss the ant   and hump the wind   I rip the cones   and bomb the crows
I beard up  and pickle-can trout  I oil the toboggan  I mine spuds  I sheathe tin snips

the tools for horse shoes are shut up in a plastic box
grandpa go down easy now

the famous sawtooth of the northern pike fish
the sturgeons lick their sawtooth chops
birds of fresh water   they fly in silver suits   they cut water
their whole damn body     wing

the taters go into paper bags   down cellar   they go
to hope against rot   and the likewise of softening

the fat on the meat stays   the bones go for soup then to the dog

I run on whiskey and lacquered sap   I run on coon shyness
I run on lichen and loon eggs   I run on late night northern lights
aurora albino cigar puff of the dead and gones

I run on your voice    saying ice saying snow
I run on your kiss   lined   with mine and you and me are not
woebegone for sure   though we are a lake of tugs and rough yeses

late autumn and    I am a diesel truck astronaut
late autumn and    I am a slaughter house worker
late autumn and    I am having trouble with r’s
so fluff about some    slip on the cow tongue
say wed which is what I do    to the maple’s vowels
to the wind dressed   in asbestos towels and wings

young geese pierced    by get up and go
gone as the love of a woman whose shadow I farm for cranberries
my love for the color of cranberries explains   my deep love for beets
beets with onions    beets with rye bread   beets with herring beets with brandy

I love beets and point beer   I love beets and Leinenkugels
I love beets and bourbon   I love eagles and venison
beets and anything    after beet eating I talk tough for days

the seasawing of river water and blood in me I love

in cold water his bits fell    and fish came for him   in swift bodies    they couldn’t help

for lack of woman    he courted the pine   well before Monica
stepped out of the snow   started taking swings at his every bone
he brought daffodils to the trunk of the pine
climbed and came down   carved his name in a heart on the bark
bill and pine forever   he unzipped the red bark
looked over his shoulder   at an owl tiring a branch
he put his chin on his shoulder   like he pressed a fiddle down
and a one two a one and a two   oh he banged out a rift
sang a family out of    the barks of ravings and pines

the chickadee    the chickadeedeedee    that sound that infant’s body
that scrap of thirstiness    broke through his skin
from this bust   I spring and green   I fetter I pine for

Rusk county    shops boarded up    ply wood and black plastic bags
everybody you see just cried   one beat up Pontiac
tail pipe sparking    man behind the wheel    stomach thick with beets
beard wide as the beaver tail   eyes wanting a bar

I’ll just go down to the 211 for one   I’ll just buy a bar mirror plaque of
Dale’s number 3   a great white beard of snow like Dale’s no. 3 car’s shrapnel
snow fondles a hard river    sneak a touch snow glowers from a hard stop sign
it isn’t anything I can’t shoot with a .410

then a hard left    the shop where you could buy
some kind of cross or angel     boarded up
the dream of you kissing me   I am talking about Danielle selling ceramic angels
in the shop that’s dead and gone   her kiss was a washing machine
add the blinker click to the nothing    the dream of kissing you again
it gets bad enough   I have to whistle   something churning    loud

pine at the black point of the day    moon onion snow onion snow garlic snow bone
snow dog    god is what it is but I lean for more
the pines will blind you    if you walk into them open eyed
real penance you have to pay   you have to walk into a pine eyes shut
arms up like a rock up a stream   if I bust you out of jail will you kiss

when tire tread meets gravel    a crow feels a pinch in its pumpkin seed tongue
my cow alone at home eats snow   she winces from cold

I am walking into a bar   I am walking into pine hurts and loves
my lips stop now   you dance the pine dance now

you kiss the pine for who among us has not kissed a sparkler
I am running out of July    I am writing my name in the air
the blue light stays sticks   then it’s gone

Rusk County    white farm black chimney
the blue hammerhead shark of smoke   by by

my hand rubs the grease and steam from the window
here I am   eyes red as milk dropped in wine
I haven’t clipped my fingernails for a long time
my beard smells like smoke and maple syrup
I am pretty poor   wave hello to me   keep walking

there’s a place up ahead    an abandoned farm
a pine growing up through the kitchen floor   leave it there
I can sell you the nails to build around
there should be a bay window in your heart   so I can see how you work
what you love there’s leftover soup in here you’re welcome to

this poem is owed to Bill Detra    in this I’ve been thinking of
one pine the whole time   my mother sits under it   snapping beans
into   a bowl   full    of   snapped    green   beans

Abraham Smith is currently an MFA student at the University of Alabama. His work has appeared or will soon appear in The American Poetry Review, The Amherst Review, Crossconnect, The Greensboro Review, New Orleans Review, and Poetry Motel. He has performed at the National Poetry Slam, the Taos Poetry Circus, and the South-by-Southwest Music Festival.