As I set the point of the nail to the trunk
My father said, You’ll kill it eventually,
Just by hammering in those few—
But do what you want with your life.
How could it die—the grayish nails
So thin, the scaly bark hardly flinching,
The tree looming up at least eighty feet,
Only a trickle of amber juice backstroking
Down from the wound?
How could I kill what was not mine to claim
With such small onslaughts, the pounding of years
Focused in four or five swift strokes?
But I continued, I buffeted that dark spruce
With nails in a circle of silver, dressing it
In a metallic garter that runs so far up the leg
It becomes carnal and withers in the memory
Of innocence—all so I could learn how
To hammer, how to build, how to trace my heritage
In level boards and mantles, all to glean
The consistent knocking of metal against wood,
Like a counting that once begun never ceases
That grows louder and ends with the end.