Not Harry Houdini
but my Washington forester father could alter
ecology, topple grandmother forests to soil,
boil down the bones of old growth stands
to dust, forge lumber, plywood and pulp.
In tin pants, hard hat and calks, he could trek
into the weald, spot a cull in a stand, sense
its heartwood beat before the cut. He taught me
to count tree rings, to assign an age to living.
He couldn’t revert milled Wahkiakum County
lumber back into natural timberland (Doug
fir, red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock),
but he knew the value of a wildwood’s marrow,
its cycle of growth, mortality, and cultivation.
He once showed me the magic trick of chasing
ground pepper on a water’s surface into a pie
plate’s rim with a dab of dish soap on the tip
of a wooden toothpick, tiny lumber. Sometimes
a star, others a mandala. He showed me the parlor
trick of education, the difference between a logger
and a forester. He showed me how to escape north.
Kersten Christianson is a poet and English teacher from Sitka, Alaska. She is the author of Curating the House of Nostalgia (Sheila-Na-Gig, 2020), What Caught Raven’s Eye (Petroglyph Press, 2018), and Something Yet to Be Named (Kelsay Books, 2017). She is also the poetry editor for Alaska Women Speak. Kersten enjoys road trips, bookstores, and smooth ink pens.