The Raker’s Progress, Antideconstructionist, & The Carpenter Bee

The Raker's Progress
Joel Savishinsky 

The last leaves on the maple
have seen the future and are
determined it won’t happen
to them: the gray faces of
this already dis-spirited century,
our own meager hopes,
the ever-ready compromises
with integrity. They have
witnessed my grandchildren
playing among the dead,
kicking up bones into dusty
clouds. The leaves’ translucent
fingers dangle from limbs,
signaling to let the wintry
world have its way. We will
wait, they sign, and watch until
spring forces us out by its touch
on our stubborn stems. This is
still our tree, our tree of life,
a silent citadel that can guard
frail soldiers and doomed relics
left behind by fortune, covering
the retreat of sisters and brothers
who’ve sought refuge in the slow,
subtle warmth of earth’s decay.
Joel Savishinsky 

I loved rivers until I took geology where
           I learned what they did to their beds.
Our bodies were marvels until the day
          their tendons grew in my garden.
Now I live among the destroyers of language,
          the orderlies of bed and bowel who
hunt the texts within the text.

Lately, from my elders, who put things
           together well in the course of their decay, I have
sensed that knowledge need not
           stand in the way of knowing.
So I will work to recover my river
           cultivate a plot and the muscular pain it grows,
and put down roots in books
           without eating the glue that binds their pages.

The Carpenter Bee
Joel Savishinsky 

Beneath the porch railing
the carpenter bee makes
his hour-glass dune,
a perfect heap of love’s labor,
sawdust for sand.

Deeper, in the foundation’s
cave, the boxes wait,
blocks of a misplaced pyramid:
accounts and books, pots
and towels, the children’s
unstudied art, the swept-up
tokens of travel,

episodes of civil war, once
interrupted by spasms of
song, sex, or exhaustion—
a house sometimes
divided by the issue
of keeping up a house.

Now there is no place
left to go but away,
leaving only the bee,
who does not notice
his work, his admirable
diligence, and yet must
destroy to sanctify
and save this home.

From afar, those who
pack and those who
drill are both noble in how
they erase to create.

If I could, I would
bless all who have
lived or died trying
to live here.

Joel Savishinsky is a retired professor of anthropology and gerontology. He has studied human adaptations in the Canadian Arctic, Turkey, the Caribbean, the US, England and India. His books include The Trail of the Hare: Life and Stress in an Arctic Community, The Ends of Time: Life and Work in A Nursing Home, and Breaking The Watch: The Meanings of Retirement in America; the latter two each won the Gerontological Society of America’s annual book award. The places his poetry, fiction and essays have appeared, or are forthcoming, include Atlanta Review, Beyond Words, Cirque, Metafore, The New York Times, PageBoy, Poetry Quarterly, SLANT, Toho Journal, and Windfall. He lives in Seattle, helping to raise five grandchildren and the climate of opinion about social justice.


“Antideconstructionist” was originally published in Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly.

 “The Carpenter Bee” was originally published in California Quarterly.

Leave a Reply