It is the sound of the log splitting
and its echo
which marks my passage
into manhood. My father stands
by the porch as the ax swings up
He studies the way I go
with the grain and let the ax do the work.
He studies the rolling of my shoulders
with each whack into the dense
wood. He remembers his own
father teaching him to swing a pick
in the dark tunnels
of the Pennsylvania coal mines.
With a carbide lamp
splitting the darkness,
he brought to the surface
buckets of coal. As he straitened
the stiffness out of his back and legs,
he’d squint into the harshness of light -
fearing the darkness behind him.
Now, after four, five, six logs
and after ten, eleven, twelve logs
split and stacked, he squints into the sun
breaking through the clouds
and sees the spots
of early manhood rising.