I was splitting wood,
oak and hickory,
with a wedge and a sledgehammer,
and somehow was not able to tire myself
regardless of how frustrating it
sometimes became.

My son watched. Now and then he
handed me the small ax.
He saw me try to split
those pieces of sweet gum that
someone had left in the woodpile
we’d inherited with the house,
and that I, in my ignorance,
treated just like the other wood.

He saw how, with these logs,
the wood opened but did not split,
how it grabbed the wedges
and, hard as I hammered, would

not let them free.
He saw two wedges stuck and
my useless, endless hammering,
and he asked, Dad, what are we going
to do now? and I, not knowing,
ashamed to admit defeat,
looking at him for a moment,
laid my heavy arms down.