I didn’t know the dimensions
Of a cord of wood.
One word, jumbled
From my father’s mouth,

All I knew was weight
Rough-edged bark
Splinters like shanks
Ice-crusted split trunks.
Stackable fuel.

Dropped tailgate
One deep step up in heavy boots
Three logs fumbled
From pickup bed
To snowy earth.

My father’s leather gloves
Swallowed my hands.
Even back then, he didn’t bend down
Or raise his arms above his head

The unloading became my dance
Step, lunge, dip, ball change.
Heat rose from my shoulders
The last gasp of sweat
Hovered over me as I moved,
In a cloud of body breath.

My father’s eyes followed my work
Stopwatch in hand,
Timing my rhythm.
The coach’s whistle dangled, still,
Around his neck.

My only currency was youth.
Perhaps, I thought,
He envied the deeps bends of my knees
The high hoisting of logs
The dance steps from
Pickup to woodpile.

Perhaps he missed himself—
The boy who could stack wood
As fast as this daughter.
Or maybe he merely grieved the glory
Of being swift.

I pondered his certain
Desire for youth—
And he clicked the stopwatch.
I realized as I stood, panting,
Waiting for the praise
That didn’t come

He only thought of fire.

Susan Ishmael-Poulos is a 10th-generation Kentuckian living in Texas. In 2009 she co-founded WhatWomenWrite, a blog for writers, and is completing a novel about race, corruption and the bourbon industry set in 1950s Kentucky. 

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