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The Job of Becoming a Poet

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THE journey to words, a cat climbing a blanket that is stretched across a clothesline, the afternoon sea with its gulls at full mast. I sit on the pier's edge, looking for depth in the barnacles close to the kelp-clad rocks, and think back to earlier in the day.

The time I sat beside a man from another generation and watched men in a fishing boat in a bay full of waves. We spoke the language of shared silence, participating in the wake of waters to shore.

There were other explorations, like reading the plays of Shakespeare while drifting across a great lake, or diving beneath a floating garden and catching the shadow of a salmon at play.

I hear my name being spoken. I pay attention to the cat perched atop the blanket, and then gaze in the direction of the gull beside me.

I hear my name again. This time I look around and see a woman of years carrying a splitting mallet and a couple of wedges. She begins to work on a section of log that I brought in from yesterday's waves.

Shall I help?

The cat decides it is time to descend the blanket and prance across the pier to where the woman of years is busy.

I find myself pitching in, at first by watching the woman of years deftly place the wedge with one hand and tap it with the head of the splitting mallet.

She asks me if I want to split a section of tree. I take the mallet which weighs as much as a bucket full of sea water.

The cat jumps on the handle of the mallet, and then finds its way up my arm. It perches on my shoulder. I place a wedge in the center of the log. The woman of years suggests I take a closer look at the log. "See where the wood wants to split."

I take a good look and replace the wedge.

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