Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOTEM, by JAMES GALVIN

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First Line: Riding a '23 farmall round and round on a hot afternoon, I always
Last Line: Didn't try to find the snag. This year. Everything that died, died twice
Subject(s): Forests; Woods

Riding a '23 Farmall round and round on a hot afternoon, I always think of the
dead spruce spar on the ridge behind the house. From here it pierces the
skyline, asking for it, like a column of smoke. It must be a full hundred feet
taller than anything living. But start up the hill and it disappears behind the
smaller pines.

Why in all these years it hasn't caught a hot one and burned the whole mountain,
God might have called an easy miracle. It stands bright against the sky, as if
it had turned to quartz.

But I'd rather pull my hat down and watch the teeth of the hay rake making
windrows, turning the meadow into a patch of corduroy, or see the iron wheels
sink into the dough of the peat bog and imagine driving on the moon.

Each December I decide to cut it down. It takes till noon on snowshoes just to
top the ridge, where I climb a tree for a glimpse of the spar. I walk too long,
climb another and see it somewhere else, as if the forest were moving it around.

I return home in the early dark. Perhaps I see some elk or a couple of fool
hens. I decide death by fire is reassuring to a forest. This year I didn't try
to find the snag. This year, everything that died, died twice.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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