The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


James Tolan

Spikes Driven into Oak


He must have come alone at night
so no mercenary soul could squawk
the story of what would seem
the moon-dropped madness of a man
who knew only bold and repeated injury
could save what would otherwise become
barrel, box, or beam, furniture or plank,
and not the final pillar of a cathedral’s ruin.

To be wise you must do more than know
the hum of sap within your timbre
or an oak’s. You must own
the strength to drive spike after spike
into the fragrant body of what you love
to save it from another’s necessity and saw.




JAMES TOLAN is author of Mass of the Forgotten (Autumn House Press), Red Walls (Dos Madres Press) and co-editor with Holly Messitt of New America: Contemporary Literature for a Changing Society (Autumn House Press).



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