by Ken Jones

A shave a day
a haircut once a month
how ridiculous
this life

The oak has toppled headlong down the hillside, its branches stabbing and tearing up the earth, its limbs twisted and broken. It has smashed the old sheep fence, repaired over and over again with generations of rusty wire and bailer twine. A freak gust, late on New Year’s Eve.
From its rings I would guess we were the same age. But the oak is not faced with yet another diary.

“The Year at a Glance”
its blank whiteness
ruled up already

The returning sun at first strikes only the top bar of the gate into the wood. No sooner seen from the study window than I am out tinkering with my beloved chainsaw. Then up and out of the valley shadow and blinking into the sunlit clearing.

In a blue sky
the bare twigs
of a fragile dream

Below, through the pasture of the Chapel Field, soft black molehills lift the heart. After the usual stuttering, coughing and complaining, the aged Austrian saw bursts into full-throttled roar. Through moss, bark and rot, its teeth slice into the smooth white heartwood, spraying me with aromatic shavings. But lying in wait is the pent-up energy of twisted boughs. One false move and the trap sprung, the chain stripped, and my own life bleeding. At last, the trunk dismembered, the great stump suddenly keels back upright with a groan, to sit with dignity in the empty clearing.
At dusk I stop the saw, sliding it into its yellow scabbard. Time now to stack the timber, breathing in the strange sweet smell of oak. Where the crown had fallen is now a crescent of brushwood. Sawdust and frost glitter in the moonlight.

Sickle moon
sharp in the frosty sky
the scream of a hare

I settle myself on the stump and sing old hymns.

When I tread the verge of Jordan
Bid my anxious fears subside
Death of death and hell’s destruction
Land me safe on Canaan’s side

Now the crumbling stone walls, in their mossy coats, come creeping down through the trees. Heavy laden with chainsaw, crowbar and tackle, heart at ease I pick my way down the hill.

Moon shadow
faint drifts of leaves
to mark the way


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