Two Video Poems & One Poem
I’m caught up in splitting wood,
the steel wedge of the hydraulic ram rending
rounds of aspen, buckthorn, cherry, each giving up
its grain with a shriek or comic squeal.
The brim of my hat shuts him out as well
as the morning sunlight, until I happen
to look up and see him standing there.
He’s young, rough-looking, though less so
than I in my for-home-only grubbies, his smile
at my apprehension fading into a tough look:
“I’m lookin’ for permission to hunt on your land.”
He’s from that family over on Evenson that loves
target practice, the reports crashing our way
on weekends. Once we called 911 because
what we thought was bloody murder was only
them flushing foxes with screams and yells.
His flinty blue eyes harden when I say
“Sorry, we don’t allow any hunting here.
We’re changing it back to the way it was
before the white man came,” imagining
as I say it him quoting me at supper.
“We spend a lot of time on the land
so we don’t want hunters on it, you know
it’s just a matter of safety.” He has nothing
to say so I give him the little rundown
on what we’re doing, describe the villainous
reed canary grass and honeysuckle
and how my wife has done a lot of hands-on
volunteer work at different sites, how she’s
been to burn school and herbicide school
and conferences around the state.
He’s looked around the yard, down at his feet.
I see how young he is, how worn down
by what must be some boring job, or no job
at all, how I’m just another downer.
He turns to walk away. I want to ask
his name, maybe invite him for a walk
and a drink, tell him all about our plans.
“Have a good season,” I say.
—R. Virgil Ellis, Cambridge, WI