Today's poem is "How Heart Gets Hauled to the Paper Making Mill" by Patricia Smith Ranzoni, who grew up and lives on a subsistence family farm in Bucksport as a daughter of a rigger at the mill. Her documentary work has been published across the country and abroad, most recently in 3 Nations Anthology: Native, Canadian & New England Writers (Resolute Bear Press) and the anthology STILL MILL, Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine 1930 – 2014 (North Country Press), from which this poem comes.
How Heart Gets Hauled to the Paper Making Mill
By Patricia Smith Ranzoni
Spruce/Fir Short Groundwood ticket # 20252959
How it comes to them between jobs, hard times, the way sun occurs through clouds. How the calls get made – what new regs apply, how much per cord these days? How it gets figured by weight now, still @ about a hundred a cord minus Pelkey's trucking cut per load. How the calendar is checked, days counted, plan set. How their old tractor is joined by another old one dickered for from Craig's List to shore up the operation, Stutzman's '43 Farmall ready to retire from his crops but still with life in 'er. How saws are sharpened, oiled, fueled. Tractors oiled, greased, gassed up, and tires checked. Trailer. Foresters consulted. Maine Intent to Harvest plan approved. #471831. Filed.
How the grandfather and son drop, limb, measure and saw trees to length as they go, grandsons following, lifting, grunting, carrying, heaving the 4 footers into stacks to be loaded on the trailer. Whatever needs to be done when. How three weeks into the cut, coming down to cross the brook, the trailer-hitch breaks, fetching up the load. How some of the wood tumbles into the water, the rest needing to be off- loaded, lightened enough to allow a scabbed chain hitch for limping home for a weld. How the family will haul this last harvest for the mill up to their roadside for Tom to grab with his grapple rig, lift and set down, neat, squared off, secured. Scaled at the mill: 25.46 tons. 12.12 cords. 969 dollars and 60 cents. One Fall.
How the women take pictures for after the mill is gone. Soon. How their last pitchy load to sell there creeps out of their yard, waits for speeders down Cotton Hill, then turns, swaying and groaning onto the road to town and the end. How the men, spent and proud, watch their one heart strain out of sight, never to disappear, knowing wherever this paper is headed, they are going, too.
Poem copyright © 2017 Patricia Smith Ranzoni. Reprinted from Still Mill: Poems, Stories & Songs of Making Paper in Bucksport, Maine 1930-2014, North Country Press, 2017, by permission of Patricia Smith Ranzoni.