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RD Armstrong, US
 

 

 

 

Free Verse

 

Artifact

from

 

The carpenter is building a simple garden bench.
He uses a slab of redwood nearly three inches thick,
Shaped like the state of Arkansas,
With a stripe of white running along the angled side.
The bench legs are cut from the straight side of the slab.
Two pieces are glued together to make each leg.
Each leg fits into a dado cut into the underside of the bench
And must be carefully cleaned up with a chisel.
As the carpenter works the wood, he notices several things:
The wood is old and dry.
It easily yields to the chisel,
Neither checking or splintering.
There appears to be some figuring on the surface,
Which will give the appearance of waves
Once the seat is oiled.
As the carpenter clears the dados, he
Remembers that the man he bought the slab from
Estimated that it was perhaps seven hundred years old.
When this slab was a part of a tree
And that tree was just a sapling on a hillside,
In the northwestern part of a country that had not
Been claimed or named by any foreign man,
Europe was extricating itself from the yoke of
Ignorance known as the dark ages and straining
Towards the Renaissance.
When this sapling became a tree,
It would still be centuries before
Anyone would conceive of cutting it down,
Much less contemplate making a piece of it into a bench.
While this tree grew skyward, nations appeared and collapsed,
Humans acted out their follies, rising and falling
According to the whims of fate.
Countless armies have faced off against each other.
Philosophies, ideals, and ethics have come and gone.
Nearly half of modern history occurred
While this tree grew quietly, undisturbed, in a grove
Somewhere in the northwestern corner of America.

There is a certain, unstated holiness in this moment
Where a man, the maker and breaker of things, turns a simple
Piece of wood into a thing of beauty, to be appreciated
And to bear witness to the wonder of this artifact of nature’s glory.

 

Bench

 

Bench Detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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