He has been working at the ancient stump
with a mattock and a grub hoe and an axe.
When his wife was alive they would sit
on that decaying wood and watch the moon.
It was white as a pale grub above the tupelos.
It waited in the dead sky, otherworldly
as a bleached skull, as pale as salt.
Usually the bullfrogs and chorus frogs
would serenade them from the lake,
but this evening the sweat drips from his back
and the sounds are of split wood and severed
roots. A kind of forgiveness settles
into these bottomlands at twilight: the air cools,
the fog coalesces like a wraith, and the hoot owls
awaken as specters in the woods. In one dream
the stump transforms slowly into loam
and out of it sprouts a living tree, lifting itself
into the sky above the lake, growing tall
and sharp and hooked. Then impales the moon
and holds it dead and bloated in the sky.