Wood-turner by Andrea J Nolan

            for my uncle, Art

Polishing wood for hours, working higher
through grades of sandpaper, until just a rag
does the work: it seems impossible
for cloth to influence wood, like water
on rock, but after days of patience, the surface transforms
into feather – feels like the skin of an infant whose warmth
breathes through to the finger’s touch.

Breathing through the finger’s touch,
the wood-turner caresses sycamore stumps,
salt cured driftwood and redwood roots
pulled deep from earth. They still have more life
to live: more shapes, forms hidden in imperfect grains.
Guided by a careful and callused hand,
wood transforms, ground by steel and blade.

Ground by steel and blade, wood takes form:
piece after piece, knotted red oak burls
turn into bowls, rounding beech into vases.
Slabs of maple trunks spin under rotor –
lace circles of once living timber.
Absorbed, machines buzz until the shaped
trees cover the turner in a thin skin of dust.

The turner, covered by a thin skin of dust,
sends shapes into the world: boxes,
crosses, pawns and kings, doves, owls,
tables, plates, bowls, spoons.
Subtly, the work refines, the edges thin. The grain
shines, and interlocking circles become lace:
impossible lattices, so craft becomes art.

In impossible lattices, craft becomes art:
the first vase is solid in its beech, now a second
emerges, loose hoops encircling a slender stem.
All those that came before are likewise perfect
in their growing and dying. So many trees still
to be carved by the wood-turner who endlessly
polishes wood, always working higher.