When I say wooden -
I mean cedar chests, hemlock crates,
hickory axe handles, oak masts -
when I say wooden
can you feel your hand
brush an unfinished pine shelf,
silky, a patch of amber resin
catching your fingertips?
Once living, still fulfilling
duties as assigned
until one day, repairs failing,
recommissioned first
a child’s bird house,
then kindling, finally,
festive home
for carpenter ants fungi.

I mean neither façade
nor empty expression;
I mean, like wood,
not living and not dead –
a life owing its persistence
to its essence.

By essence
I do not mean something left
in sawdust incense,
on the dull edges
of files and blades,
on worn sandpaper
and calloused hands:
Essence is not a life's residue.
When I say essence
I mean a life's means and mode:
I mean the grit that dulls the blade
to be remade
to live another way
to live another day.

By markthegrey

I am a biologist, author, poet, professor, and parent. I nest in Aurora, IL with my spouse and about two to four kids.

2 replies on “Essence”

A shiver ran down my spine while reading this poem. I’m in the process of cutting up the 100 year seasoned Canadian pine joists of my parents house. Nicotine of old, a century of dust, 4 generations of footsteps carried, and my brother tells me it burns real slow on their open fire in the living room.


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