February strings

During the month of February, I sat down each evening and tried to capture one or two moments from the day in writing. My goal was to tie an image or an experience into a dense little knot of words – something a reader could try to untangle or just hold for a moment. At the end of the month I wrote all of these strings out and made some photocopied booklets to share with friends.

Booklet, front and back Booklet, open

The closures for the booklets are carved from the willow mentioned on day twenty-one below. As I began carving them, I realized they looked like teeth, so I carved the rest to look especially like teeth. It was an odd little coincidence that reminded me of a book I’d read along with the same friends a few months prior called The Story of My Teeth.

Following are all the February strings, for your consideration.


one
black cherry heartwood
knife follows eyes along grain
tree into tool

two
out on skis in the big rolling field at dusk:
heavy fall of snow shrinks the world down and field becomes floor of Lake Michigan in deep water

three
from indoors dusk is noted then gone
out under the sky it neither starts nor ends, but is an arc in the circular continuum of light

woodpecker head through round hole –
bird gaze inscrutable

four
shave a curl of oak off the facet and bring up the wet wood, which will dry again in a moment
the knife is like a wave up some smooth sand

five
when a thin spot in the clouds aligns with the sun, the frozen lake becomes a plane of shorn quartzite
the light overwhelms the eyes

black bolt out of the corner of the eye through the window
cooper’s hawk rises from behind a snowbank standing atop junco, dead
investigate the spot later for signs – drops of ruby junco blood crystallized in fresh powder
good blood, good meat; junco into hawk

six
memory:
duck landing like a skipped stone slowing to a skim

snow under the skis is fast tonight
smooth and good like burnished drawer runners

seven
nålbinding:
wooden needle nuzzling thumb like a cat against the legs

eight
woodpecker troop moves through Maple City:
downy, male and female; red bellied, male; pileated, ancient-eyed pair
oak to walnut to dead white ash

nine
cold now after warm spell:
skis skitter through icy troughs like bobsleds

ten
on skis:
following your tracks back out of the woods
fine cold powder pressed and rolled into fondant petals

eleven
calm bay
horizon serrated by big waves chewing east
sheer line in between

shore of young glacial lake all mineral:
sand, stone, ice

twelve
on skis:
skirt juniper, straddle sapling, thread maple arbor;
track buried but remembered

thirteen
black chaga brittle and hard –
petrified cinders from birch wound

fourteen
coyote tracks stark in cold firm powder
long trails braided along treeline
follow on skis

sixteen
blanket of snow
cold blue light from half moon
the land creaks beneath the stars

eighteen
thin aspen against strong light:
crooked growth rings like layers of amber agate
soft strata

nineteen
big south wind blunts the edge of winter
snow drips like blood from the eaves

warm air parts the cloth of snow in places:
moist ground surprised, embarrassed
avert the eyes out of respect

twenty-one
coppice:
white willow pulp from the kerf like soil kicked from a burrow

outside the sauna:
sunlight pours down, reflected from the full moon face /
sunlight billows up off our bodies, sprung from burning wood

twenty-two
short section of white ash bole:
dead straight grain, dry –
break it down methodically into good kindling

twenty-three
bay dead calm warm February evening
a vision of thick black ice to the horizon

twenty-four
troop of small birds to the feeder:
quick slaty juncos, luminous paper-lantern female cardinal, downy woodpecker at work on the suet, lone red-breasted nuthatch watches from maple

back in January:
woodpecker taps
cold air tones wood
toll of the ash

twenty-five
apple:
sapwood yellow wax curls when sliced
heartwood hard umber chert core
long curl brings up wet wood again

twenty-six
aspen bark
smooth into wind
iridescent, copper

twenty-seven
at the commons:
tone circles big concrete cylinder
centrifugal sound

twenty-eight
lithe early robin in plum tree
small shriveled fruit into golden needle beak –
autumn artifact into spring symbol

twenty-nine
great bear framed by maple lattice,
set softly in ice crystal cloud
static night