To shape a life out of marble or granite
requires quarrying and carting, teams
of people and horses, and, out of bronze,
mined metals, a furnace, and a mould
crafted with lapidary precision.
But wood is ubiquitous – before navies
are commissioned, and sheep runs enclosed –
oak forests overlaying hills and valleys.
When folk live close to where they are born,
and history is what you are told by your kin,
and generations are short, and count;
when the priest says, “Jesse begat David the king
and David the king begat Solomon
all the way to Jesus”; when the priest says,
“Isaiah talks of Jesse as a tree”;
when your world is full of people with these names,
the Jordan seems only half a day’s journey
away, just beyond the next range of hills.
Sometimes ideas are like clouds, slow,
lumbering, or slight, whipped by the wind,
or lightning that hits the gut – like the fork
that fells the big oak near the river,
its torn-up roots like a man reclining.
So the wood carver creates, chisels and paints
Jesse and all his progeny, ascending
to the crown of the tree, the Son of God –
generations secure on an old man’s back.
King Davidsculpturethe Jesse Treewood carving