Ten Cords of Dry

A cord of wood is a pile, neatly stacked, 4′ wide by 4′ high by 8′ long. A city person would be amazed at how much split dry wood it takes to heat a small cabin on an Island off Vancouver for a whole winter.

We met a tall, strapping wood sculptor at an art show in Joshua Tree, in the Mojave desert. He talked glowingly of the time he spent on Hornby island, off Vancouver, and how the artist community in Joshua Tree was almost as good as what he had experienced there. We asked him why he had come to this place in the desert, so different from that cold damp island.

Ten Cords of Dry

It was the heft of the axe,
the solidity of the chopping stump,
the pull of his shoulders as he swung
from Spring to first snow,
one hour every morning before coffee and breakfast,
that kept him sane those fifteen years on Hornby Island.

The tangibility of the task,
the sheer size of the pile
growing bit by bit,
to be sucked up by the ever hungry winter stove,
that part of living – no uncertainty,
ten cords of dry
the reason why.

Angela crept softly
into his periphery,
a bit of red shawl in a summer park,
gentle swaying at a late night gathering,
then finally a touch and spark,
the two of them in a crowded coffee house,
the whole world dissolving into fog.

Winter was warmed by
long nights of talk,
their skin touching hot under blankets,
cold air seeping around the edges,
and the ever dwindling pile
of split wood in the barn.

She said I love you so – but know
that I am a traveler in this place
of high pine and rain.
My home is on a desert hill,
where the Mojave slopes down
to meet the Colorado,
where the relentless sky
finds every hiding place
and purifies my soul.

I’m leaving now – to greet
the flowers of the sage and ocotillo,
to burn away the residue
and find out what I have that stays,
and purge what has to go.

As Angela brings out the tea,
he’ll tell you now,
ten years gone by,
in the desert light of Joshua Tree,
that he came to flee the endless cold.
Ten cords of dry
the reason why.

Blue (When Mixed With Red)

We had watched an enjoyable live music performance at the Anaheim Civic Center. A couple of hundred people at an intimate venue enjoyed the show and had a great time talking to the husband and wife performers, the stars of the show.

We hung around a while talking to friends, then headed out to the dark and nearly empty parking lot. There we saw the performers again, re-packing the guitars around their duffel bags in the crowded compact hatchback. Off to the next show …

Blue (When Mixed With Red)

There were no blue notes in his set
Up-beat banjo hints of bluegrass
He stood tall in blue jeans and knit cap
Light dancing off the face of his guitar

She stood beside him harmonized
Her mandolin stepped high above
His smooth blue voice that called her every night
For twenty years

She was counterpoint to him
Beneath her polished presentation
Danced a restless nervousness
That glowed deep red beneath stage lights

The people loved their act
Stood clapping at the end
The small hall had no backstage haven
So they walked along the wall
And stood there in the back
To autograph a few Cd’s

He walked out later in the dark
Past stragglers beneath street lights
And re-arranged the little truck
To get the amp and guitars in
She joined him and they drove into the night
Where red and blue had mixed up a deep purple
That colored in the shades of gray

Copyright © 2011 Francis Kearns

You and I Walking

You were re-assembling
the building blocks,
throwing off the mood of troubled youth,
climbing out of scrimping two-job
low rent downtown apartments.

I was stepping out of
the skin of the classroom boy,
reborn to the sun in the garden,
community food banks, anti-war marches
and the smell of machine shop oil.

We shared the wonder of
warm air on a summer night,
strong coffee and alcohol
and the sound of the blues guitar
bending that high slow note
‘till our souls took flight.

I looked for nothing
beyond the spell
but in brief instants saw
as the kitchen window
set your red bandanna
golden hair aglow
a long road
and in the distance
you and I

Copyright © 2011 Frank Kearns