The Ever-dulling Axe of Time
For weeks they talked it up at old Doc Daniel's store
back by the stove and the Post Office window,
all the what-ifs and thank-gods.
What if Grandpa hadn't carried his sharpest axe
up the hill to the timber that paid,
propping the jaws of coal mines,
leaving the duller blade for his boys
to hack the corn to cow cobs.
What if my daydreaming father
had moved just a horse's hair's breadth
to the left? What if the weight that hefted
the blade had not been scrawny Uncle Ernest's?
Again and again the tale slices flesh
fractions fly from my father's hand,
that thin white line of scar where the thumb
nearly flew to corn stumps. In those days
in the lonely hills of twisted stubborn roads
no miracle could have stitched it on again.
In nearly 40 years I never heard that story
or just like a foolish child who believes
the present is not the past, I wouldn't hear
or promptly forgot- it wasn't a stump, after all
like the stub of terror Uncle Bubby poked at us
to make us squeal. It was merely a miss.
It slices down again in time
from his slowly eroding mountain of memory,
the near-misses, what-ifs, and thank-gods,
that ever dulling axe.
Kathy Cantley Ackerman