CONVERSATIONS WITH A BRETON WOODSMAN 

 

Sawdust sticks to the sweat on his philtrum,

this moist August, here in Melioneg,

where his bark-born hands guide timber

from the woods at Ar Gemene and Lanwelan.

 

Eighty years old this summer, he tells me,

through his rattling wooden teeth.

Such dentures fit this man of trees:

his gob filled with what he knows best.

 

He thinks me mad, crazy even.

I am conversing in the dust of Cornish,

hoping some splinters will pierce,

and make it through the grind of separation.

 

In the woodshed, his work and life mingle.

He shows me Breton books and journals,

mangled by damp, frost and time.

Their fonts are coated with shavings.

 

The spinning blade splinters a log.

Its metal teeth chomp through rings of time

and the trunk is eased through by him.

Outside, as debris, lie all those branches.

 

The brutal cut of history severs us

into two emergent planks:

one knotted and gnarled; the other straight and firm.

You know which one he keeps.

 

His apron is sap soaked; his cap an acorn.

“Do you speak Breton every day?” I ask.

“Yes. Every day – I know no French.

And you – with Cornish?”

 

“Occasionally,” I try to say.

His puzzled face becomes a canopy of leaves.

My land is still a sapling.

His, a forest.

 

 

 

Original Watercolour 42 © M.J. Forster

Original Watercolour 42 © M.J. Forster

 

 

 

Alan M. Kent is one of Cornwall’s most prolific writers. A novelist, poet, dramatist and academic, Alan’s most notable works include The Theatre of Cornwall (2009), Surfing Tommies (2009) and Voog’s Ocean (2012).

 

MJ Forster is a Northumberland-based artist, specializing in a form of painting with watercolours, which he calls Überpainting. For more information about his work and where t see it, visit  www.mjforster.com.