The Woodsman's Son

by Jeremy D. Brooks


A long-forgotten, cast-off nut embedded just an inch below
the frozen ruin of terra crusta; the wind, the ash, the blackened snow
My sleep has lasted half an age
This barren ground will be the stage
The time will soon be here, I know; I feel the ground beneath me glow
  
Lightning crashes, frantic winds blow warming snow through valleys vast
with thunderclap and hoofbeat rain, the pounding showers--here, at last
I've waited since the autumn's dusk
For warming rains to pierce my husk
"Please, give me strength to push up past! Thrust through the earth in leafless mast!"

Arching to the sky, I reach; with em'rald canopy I sail
With knot and thorn like shield and sword and bark as strong as iron mail
As hard a core as can be found
As deep a root within the ground
Behemoth from an ancient tale; a wooden beast of breathless scale

Artesian waters crack the earth; they buck and bray and thrust and run
Warm western winds bring seed and mulch; wan, threadbare clouds release the sun
Green carpet, grass of shining gold
Frail amulets of hues untold
This world, I thought, can't be outdone; it must be master-planned by One

The complex pieces of the forest rose alone, yet fit so well
So to my oaken mind there is no other purpose I can tell:
"We rose to heed our Master's call,"
"He put me here to herd you all"
"I'll guide the good toward Heaven's knell; the rest left to the din of Hell"
  
I watch them all: the beasts on land and fishes in the babbling brook
A shepherd's life begets him naught, until the day he drops his crook
My Lord, He will not let me rest
My life, you see--it's just a test
I'll toil 'til he shuts my book; an idle limb: the Devil's rook

The choices that we think are ours--of leisure, labor, laughter, love,
Are multi-colored threads that guide us through our faith; or lack thereof
But if you listened, you were told
Without a doubt which thread to hold:
A tether you're unworthy of: the golden line from up above

But sometimes Father, in His grace, will twist the threads and blur the path
And make me want to put my faith in things like science, logic, math
I close my eyes and bite my lip
And curse the books that made me slip
Remember that his love is wrath; baptism in a sulfur bath

To further steel my heart, one year My Lord sent me a carnal dare
A shapely nymph of silken wood and slender roots...sweet pollen air
To love her, I would give a limb
But, prior, gave my heart to Him
Regret? I think I've earned my share; a fool thinks that his pain is rare

But pain for piety is fair.

A century or more I reigned in this domain of mostly good
My Master called me home one day; before His mighty chair I stood
"I'm grateful for the chance, O Lord"
"To stand in service as Your sword"
"I swear it on my life: that if I could, I'd give my trunk and wood"

With thunderous laugh and lightning clap, He raised His axe and held His side
"A virtuous speech, indeed, My son; but in My eyes you daren't hide"
"I've watched you grow up from a seed"
"I've scrutinized your every deed"
"It's time, I think, to test the tide, and show your Father what's inside"

I tore my bark and turned my right-side out--and, so, my outside in
And showed my Lord, for once and all, my splintery hide was clean of sin
And let my sap, like amber tears
Pooled at my roots for faithful years
"Please, tell me, Lord, how good I've been; and when the seven horns begin"

"I pray You: take me home again"

And with that solemn line He stood, and bid me lay before His throne
He laughed and swung, and chopped, and hacked, and split my body to the bone
"You brambled fool," He said with glee
"You're stupid--even for a tree"
"Ignorance led you, fear of the unknown; you were tasked with two things: to be planted, and sown."

"You had seasons to squander 'til the day you were hewn; but the life that you wasted--that life was your own"

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