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Learning by Doing

by
 They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others.
Now and then it grunts, And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
Rotten, they tell us, at the fork, and one Big wind would bring it down.
So what they do They do, as usual, to do us good.
Whatever cannot carry its own weight Has got to go, and so on; you expect To hear them talking next about survival And the values of a free society.
For in the explanations people give On these occasions there is generally some Mean-spirited moral point, and everyone Privately wonders if his neighbors plan To saw him up before he falls on them.
Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower Dismantled in a morning and let down Out of itself a finger at a time And then an arm, and so down to the trunk, Until there's nothing left to hold on to Or snub the splintery holding rope around, And where those big green divagations were So loftily with shadows interleaved The absent-minded blue rains in on us.
Now that they've got it sectioned on the ground It looks as though somebody made a plain Error in diagnosis, for the wood Looks sweet and sound throughout.
You couldn't know, Of course, until you took it down.
That's what Experts are for, and these experts stand round The giant pieces of tree as though expecting An instruction booklet from the factory Before they try to put it back together.
Anyhow, there it isn't, on the ground.
Next come the tractor and the crowbar crew To extirpate what's left and fill the grave.
Maybe tomorrow grass seed will be sown.
There's some mean-spirited moral point in that As well: you learn to bury your mistakes, Though for a while at dusk the darkening air Will be with many shadows interleaved, And pierced with a bewilderment of birds.

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