The day his girlfriend’s father let him cut
The kindling was the cracking of a crust,
A heavy volume falling open at
A pleasant page. He felt the guard relax
At last: it takes some trust
To hand a man an ax.
They foraged for straight grain, which wouldn’t knot
The blade, but give hospitably, a quick
Clean breach, if he could hit the angle right.
The older man first watched, and then went in.
Alone, he chopped each stick
To almost pencil-thin,
Absorbed in seeking out that magic split,
Delicious every time that it occurred,
A touch of luck rewarding skill and sweat,
Though earned, still only half-anticipated,
Like just the sought-for word,
Or love reciprocated.
Max Gutmann writes: “I like the pattern—unique without being complex, rhyming throughout but ringingly only at the stanza ends. I hope the last simile feels both surprising and, like an ax biting a block, inevitable.”
Max Gutmann has worked as, among other things, a stage manager, a journalist, a teacher, an editor, a clerk, a factory worker, a community service officer, the business manager of an improv troupe, and a performer in a Daffy Duck costume. Occasionally, he has even earned money writing plays and poems.
‘Kindling’ was first published in The Formalist.