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Close Kin by Hank Jones article

 Close Kin



There's a tree, a rather magnificent cedar tree

Grown tall and mighty over the old farmhouse

But the main trunk split in its growth,

Sending two scissor arms high into the sky.


And one of these offshoots has spread its branches over the house;

Beautiful, yes, and providing necessary shade to the sunny side of the house,

But the ice storms we get these years suggest the house is in danger of fallen limbs.

At least this is what my father thinks, and the reason he, my brother, and I are out here this

            late autumn morning.


We fire up the chainsaws and tractor and commence to whittle the tree down

And away from its encroachment on this hundred-year-old house

Where my father and most of his brothers and sisters were born.

It's a day's work as we begin by cutting the upper limbs off,

Careful to avoid any falling on the house.


When we've got a big enough pile of brush,

We load it in the tractor's bucket and make a run to the burn pile.

We talk some, but largely work in silence.


Early on we lose the overshirts, and when the sun is high

We begin to sweat. But we feel good

Using our bodies and our strength and agility

To swing the chainsaws up at awkward angles

Using our geometric eye to insure the limbs fall where they ought.


I think we lose ourselves in the work, stopping occasionally for water,

And for lunch at noon, because it's not long till the sun is going behind Chalk Mountain,

And dusk finds us with the offending limb cut down to size.


The tree now looks unnaturally formed, with one mighty limb ascending to the north,

And only empty space where its brother limb was ten hours ago.

The ground is littered with sawdust from our labors,

The thick smoke of the oil/gas mix hangs heavy in the air.


We remove our sweat-stained gloves and observe our handiwork.

We've done well, succeeded in bringing the cedar tree into alignment with our desire.

And I feel a deep pleasure at the work we've done together,

At the silent bond we’ve shared as we tackled something bigger than ourselves.


But it is tinged also with a sharp sadness as I observe the deformation we have enacted.

Caught up in our masculine endeavor, I never questioned whether this was the right thing to do,

Only picked up tools with my closest kin and made the world ours.


Hank Jones has taught English composition and literature at Tarleton State University for the past thirteen years and has found none of this conducive to writing poetry. But he has started writing again anyway. He has read his poetry and creative non-fiction at various venues including Woody Guthrie Festival stages in Oklahoma City and Okemah, Oklahoma; The Langdon Review Weekend in Granbury, Texas; The Winter Gathering Festival in Stephenville, Texas; South Central MLA in Fort Worth; PCA/ACA in San Antonio; and Southwest PCA/ACA in Albuquerque (for three consecutive years). His creative non-fiction has appeared in Cybersoleil: A Literary Journal (2013).




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