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With feet rooted into the bones of the Earth,
the old man squatted on his heels and began his work.
He lifted his saw and placed it on top of a block of hardwood.
And then he began to cut. Back-cut, forward.
Metal wolf eating wood.
He seemed to ignore the events around him.
The stomp and clank of war machines grinding on and on.
Importance of officers, and measured industry of soldiers…
all were far from his concern. Back-cut, forward.
Dust began to fall.
The bamboo allowed me a view of his work.
I watched the tireless arm moving backward and forward.
The cleft in the wood deepened while time and the old man’s eyes followed
the sure progress of the blade. Back-cut, forward.
Sour smell of wood.
As politicians sparred with words dreams were lost,
young hopes were bleeding into unfamiliar soil,
and the old shoulders swayed as he continued to push the hard steel,
relentless in his patience. Back-cut, forward.
Work to be done.
Then a plank fell away from the hardwood block.
The saw was lifted to the top with barely a pause,
The calloused thumb and fingers placed to carefully guide the first cut,
and the rhythm began again. Back-cut, forward.
Wood to be used.
Breath of the saw coming ragged through the wood
sounding like dying friends in after-battle numbness.
The day's heat, a dull, buzzing insect in my brain, played counterpoint
to the rasping of the saw. Back-cut, forward.
All day long.
Time to move out on a night of war's business.
I then turned to see him stand and put his saw away.
In the dimming light, the old man gathered his collection of boards,
walked into his small house,
and left us to our illusions
Another piece of wood.
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