The Metaphysics of Lumber

by Alejandro Lemus-Gomez

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.