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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
All complaints concern sky viewing. For example, wedged between my office door and floor last week I found a parchment written by Caldor Clemens with Tree branches are air-veins to be beheaded, down with them. I placed the parchment with the others. I too am a great admirer of colors above. Selah and I want our babies to accept rain on their skin without a tree stealing the pleasure first. The complaint forms are everywhere. I am surrounded by anger.
Luckily, I recently received chain. I admit I don’t know the origins of this metal magic. The box was presented to me webbed in kite string by blue bird mask who found it inside a carved-out tree. Confession: our way of life has been better since. Chain has given us more sky surface to aim our faces at. Those possessing the ability of flight can move without fear. Using chain I have obliterated the selfish coverings known as tree limbs.
Before chain I severed branches by: 1) Diamond-studded handsaw. 2) Hot air balloon flamethrower. 3) The ‘Caldor Clemens Shake-and-Break.’ 4) Tiny knives held by climbing children. 5) The two suns. 6) My fighter’s hands. But now I need none of those weapons. I simply throw and loop and dance with chain bundled in my hands, hips shifting. Later, I answer the complaint forms while Selah stands outside exposing her throat to the wind. She, like me, enjoys feeling the sun cut new paths of air, and land, for the first time in such a way, on her naked body.
How chain works is simple, dangerous, and comical. The Diagramer would be useful, but currently I am far from my office. I will explain how it functions as I clear three dozen thick limbs above a black tent where our babies sleep. Selah is impatient. Is it too much to ask to see all sky, no branches? Besides, the August rain is near, look at the lightning on the horizon, and these babies need to eat it.
What I do is start with the head-high branches first, throwing chain up and looping it down and around the bark, forming an upside down U over my first victim. At each end of dangling chain is a foot of braided rope, which I twist once around my hands. I barely pull, but can feel the deep satisfaction of chain sinking a quarter inch into tree flesh. I squat and rhythmically punch the air, my fists blow against the tree, chain sawing back and forth, winning. Selah pivots on one foot, a hand over her eyes, and points and predicts where the next branch will grave.
I love chain. There is nothing better to unburden the sky of branches, and I imagine, the poked and prodded air feels larger, unmolested.
Professional tip to others who desire a town void of tree branches: just before severing a tree branch, when you can see the cut and the fresh yellow inside, the odd breakage and angle of a dipping branch just before it hits dirt (it almost looks human, scared) perform two strong pulls from side to side, drop chain, and run a minimum of twenty feet. I do this several times, yelling at Selah to stop her game. She drags the tent full of babies away from where I’m working and their collected bodies bubble against one side of the tent.
Give my babies the first raindrops.
As I present my eyes with new squares of sawdust sky, Selah begins pulling the babies from the tent. There is thunder. I keep throwing chain up and around helpless limbs and killing. It’s so easy! Do you understand how difficult it was to cut oak, birch, and pine using a diamond studded handsaw?
What happens next is this: I remove the last tree branch from twenty five feet above, which is about the max height limit of chain, although I’ve done forty feet, easily. Selah celebrates the final branch falling with black confetti. Nothing is in our way now. All is clouds. The rain-line from sky to baby skin is unfiltered.
Shane Jones lives in Albany New York.