Stuart Among the Nightingales [poem] by Anne Harding Woodworth

based on a newspaper story out of Ohio

After the pruners dropped out of the beeches,
packed up their ropes, saws, and harnesses
into the truck laden with trimmings and logs
they drove away.

The woman in the house breathed silence at last
in the absence of buzz-saw.

But Stu, star climber, came back.
He knew she’d left the back door open
in case they’d wanted water.

He entered
was putting her gold watch
into his pocket
when she appeared in the kitchen.

He smiled at her.
He raped her.
He killed her with his bowie.

What next? He knew how to climb,
and more, how to slice, saw, chop,
disentangle, split, sever and pull.
And he’d been intimate with this woman’s trees,
particularly the beech going rotten and hollow.

So he carried the cut-up body outside in a bag
and up into the dying tree,
where the birds now stilled their dusk sounds.

He lowered the bag into the wound of the trunk,
where heartwood and cambium were turning to dust,
insects masticating, running lengths among the pulp
that teemed in slow decay.

And he stayed there, perched high
inside the copper canopy, where the leaves
quivered their lament for limbs lost that day.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem brought T.S. Eliot to mind, specifically “Sweeney among the Nightingales.”]

Image by Hie LaVoce via Flickr Creative Commons

Anne Harding Woodworth is the author of four books of poetry and two chapbooks, and one of each is slated to appear in early 2014. Her work is widely published in print in the U.S. and abroad, as well as at several literary journals on line. She divides her time between a home in the mountains of Western North Carolina and in Washington, D.C., where she is a member of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Read more at

Comments are closed.