Woodchopping at the Easter Show

The one place, once a year

Where another Universe visits

And spreads abroad its

Aberrant aesthetic:

From food beyond price

And taste to produce

Displayed as if raided from

An eccentric giant’s

Greengrocery.

Humans as diverse:

Densely-tattooed, sideshow

Carnies fidget behind foul mouths

And hidden-but-obviously-unpleasant

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

Footballers’ legs,

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

Unobtrusive gesture.

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,

Confident countenance,

There is never a doubt.

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