The one place, once a year
Where another Universe visits
And spreads abroad its
From food beyond price
And taste to produce
Displayed as if raided from
An eccentric giant’s
Humans as diverse:
Carnies fidget behind foul mouths
Agendas, cohabiting with small, kind
And generous, old women
Thick with perms and mauve
‘Midst the CWA tea and scones.
Weather: changeable, so that the sweater
From home is peeled off as
The sun has its last hurrah
Before dozing through the winter months.
Hapless children are nose-ring-tugged
By marketing pied-pipers to showbags full
Of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
(As a child, I remember these had
substance for free, where the power
of goodwill exceeded
the making of a buck).
But all pales before the Woodchop
Mighty men with arms like
And blades so honed they could
Plane a child’s single hair.
The ritual of preparation
Enthrals as arcane, velvet-lined cases
Yawn with precious payload,
And hands like troll’s hands raise
Sacred tools to kiss them with
The pocket whetstone, worn small and aged
Through millennia of service.
One by one, their names are called,
Cases closed and acclamation
Acknowledged with a nod or
Furthest from the caller –
The one to watch – whose handicap,
The greatest, is already a trophy
Worn with pride.
He stands, axe resting on boot while
Five foes hew and sweat,
From first to last,
Chips flying, blades glinting
As he waits for his call.
Then, stepping to the block,
He is an archer with bow drawn,
Assuming the position:
Legs braced, back taut, arms extended.
In the second before the call comes,
The blade begins its awesome arc,
Plunging deep into hardwood
As if it were a melon.
Within a moment, with utmost power
And precision, he passes the others;
In another, the top of the block tumbles,
He stands victorious, and others battle
For minor glory.
Always, the crowd gasps;
Always, behind his pleased,
There is never a doubt.