When the Bough Breaks
Catherine Ann Cullen

When the Bough Breaks

Catherine Ann Cullen
When the bough breaks,
it waits for the woodturner
to press his ear to the bark
and hear the bowls singing.
he brings home a block
puts it on a pedestal
worships it sideways
His lathe is a turntable,
his gouge a needle
playing the grooves of the wood,
never the same tune twice.
the bowl’s a haiku
as if it were always there
not a breath wasted
He is a poet of the sycamore.
He hears the secrets
whispered to the wood under distant stars
and binds them to its heart
with silver wire.
in a certain light
the milky way shimmers out
of the dark blue bowl
His theatre is without flamboyance,
his book a primer of practical words –
skew chisel, faceplate, spigot –
but these too have their magic,
their art of restraint.
the woodturner’s shed,
a barbershop for branches:
blonde curls on the floor
In his mind is his first piece,
an eggcup wobbly as a toddler
that he placed by the bed
so when he woke
it would thrill him
as if for the first time.
clay gives you a chance
but wood is unforgiving:
there’s no going back
Put a bowl to your ear.
Under the woodturner’s music,
you hear the tree singing
when the bough breaks.
image courtesy of Roger Bennett


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