12

Splitting the Red Box

The tree-trunk rounds, a fallen Doric column,
are tumbled on the grass beside my gate.
Once more, in sacrificial Rites of Winter,
to be their priest, or butcher, is my fate.

Passers-by mock the laggard execution,
the tardy headsman leaning on his axe:
can you, old patriarch of the bushland,
pardon a friend, remorseful even as he attacks?

Poets are called to making not destroying,
to celebrate, where star or flower unfolds,
the intricate form and pattern of creation,
revealed design, the centre that still holds.

Instead, as I was taught, searching your weakness
I cleave your lines of growth, wheel within wheel,
splitting, dividing, in a world divided,
unmaking history with relentless steel.

The red sap runs, the patterned grain is shattered,
all’s done that need or precedent requires.
A hundred million branching years dismembered,
I stack your corpse to feed our winter fires.

Though you precede me into ash and vapour
I greet you, near my own three score and ten.
Will the expanding universe return us
coherent and concentric once again?