As a child I lived outside from morning until nightfall, exploring & playing in a dreamy landscape of bog & marginal land full of unprofitable plants & animals & the kind of WestIrish characters who no longer exist. I loved sticks. And sticks are the first tool, & the first science. We humans are a tool-being says the philosopher Heidegger. This poem, from my forthcoming collection Medium, examines my own formation as a tool-being back in those long-gone Bogwandering days & asks if we’d have been better off leaving the Sticks where they were. Medium will be free on Spotify & as e-book. I’m doing a limited, collectible print run which must be pre-ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are the tree’s sprout, but the wind’s gift.
I choose the straightest among what I pluck
from the briars
or the shade by the ditch;
hip-height and thumb-thick and bone-strong.
I won’t take one too gluey with resin.
I won’t take one too old and too parched and too likely to crack.
A whorling gnarl
half a hand
from the thick end
will give a
There is one imperative. Presumably it’s God’s.
Or the sky’s
or the bog’s
or the wind’s.
The wind is the voice of the sky saying this:
A branch is not a stick
and snapping off a healthy branch
will draw a heavy curse on life.
What and where cannot be said.
A healthy branch is a well of dread.
Still, ancient impulse leans to the perfect bond of a stick.
I feel a far ancestral honouring.
I shake the stick above my head and yawp like Eve,
yawp like Rousseau, yawp as beardy Whitman did.
I fall and rise and fall and rise…
and twist in my own yawping stick-dance,
spiralling to archetypal dreamtime,
to distant eidolons of human wilderness;
a million years old and unexpelled,
not yet parted from the forest…
paint and fumes to cheat my guilt, deny reality.
For God is only living-life, and when I was eight I tortured God,
tormented animals, hacked at sapping wood.
At eight a boy’s already part of teak,
already animated by his stick;
Each battling phantom in his DNA
still grasping through the aeons
at this multi-purpose limb,
this cable routing him
through instant ages up
to modern man,
to man who’d slash a path through anything,
to man who stands back to probe
to man who handles the world
to man by which the hacked tree sows
its Amazon of grief,
to man by which the numb roots spread
colonising every nerve and tip.
I am man now, and I’m getting a grip.