The Line Cutter

A rodman at the far end. A transitman behind. She has them where she wants them, too far apart for brainless prattle, the joking at her expense. She works her way forward, toward the red and white target above the plumb bob. This branch, that twig, she commands her machete like a surgeon. Pausing halfway between here and there, she embraces the close air, the stinging sweat, the chaotic swirl of gnats around her head. Surrounded by ferns and skunk cabbage, ash, hickory, and swamp maple, she threads her invisible line through a lush green wall of birdsong and dappled sun. She imagines her line singing, taut, like the stay of a tall ship. When the final thin branch is sliced away, the transitman drops his arm and the line is set, pinned down with a wooden stake at each end. A new boundary. A new cause for argument. Invisible line, disturbance of the peace. She ties a length of pink nylon ribbon around each stake and leaves these woods forever.





Image: Technical supply co., Scranton. [from old catalog]