The Wood Conductor by Marc Woodward

There was no sign of a woodcutter
in the tin shack raised from the red earth,
the black wood of an archived forest.
Dismembered trees haunted the air,
ghosts in the pungency of cut pine.

A tepid cup sat by a soiled plate
and a radio murmured, low music
both there and not, a particle of time.
The businessman walked on rutted mulch:
sawdust, wood chips, a chainsaw’s rainbow.

A stacked fist of trunks lay seasoning,
patient for the weather to do its work,
sap congealing, slow as a slug’s thought.
Below a tarp shelter a wheel of teeth
stood idle by a pyramid of logs.

A robin hopped and sang, leading him
to the buzz-cut limit of the yard
where chestnuts murmured their faith
in the promise of approaching summer
and two magpies rattled like maracas.

His black Oxfords were crusted with mud
and a spurt of the timber-yard’s filth
wrote a warning up his pin-striped leg:
Leave. Leave now!
He loosened his tie, removed his jacket,

rolled his thick shoulders as if wriggling
from a chrysalis, detaching his spine.
The robin was still singing loudly,
music not written in ink on a stave,
but in the helix of the bird’s DNA.

Stepping onto a flat topped stump
with a thin wand he began conducting
the sounds, a fugue concealed in the tune
from the cutter’s radio, the bird’s song,
all the wild woodwind of the forest.


Marc Woodward is an Anglo/American poet and musician living in rural Devon. He has been widely published and was writer-in-residence at The Wellstone Center in Santa Cruz, CA. in 2018, shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Prize and commended for both the 2020 Acumen Prize and the Aesthetica Creative Writing award. His collections include A Fright of Jays (Maquette 2015), Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018), and The Tin Lodes – a collaboration with Andy Brown (Indigo Dreams 2020).