In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • How to Use a Crosscut Saw
  • Sarah Capdeville (bio)

Clasp the wooden handle, polished by sweaty hands, 3-In-One, beeswax, and pitch. Make sure the wingnut is fastened tight so the handle won't shake loose. This is a two-person saw, you on one end and me on the other. Never push a crosscut saw. If you push, the blade will bend, and if it bends too much, the saw will break. You can wear leather gloves; I do, but the handle still kneads pillows of air into my palms. Later I pull back that soft skin and marvel at the sandstone calluses. I trace the armor the body has forged without being told.

________

The finger guard curves in like a quotation mark around the saw blade, a frame to the six-foot span of steel-lipped connection between us.

________

Teeth stand in fours. Glint in morning sunlight. Dig sharp into pinewood. Until we begin to pull, and then they blur together, back and forth as I pull and you pull, east and west, north and south, through huckleberry bushes and spruce saplings and the fallen tree itself, sawdust and heart rot onto my boots, fibrous strips of gold that will nest in my clothes, reminding me of the lurching struggle, reminding me I will always pull away, no matter who you are on the other side.

________

Gullets cup sawdust the teeth have sheared from the log and they are cool [End Page 149] hollows of stillness, until they slide from the wood and those yellow feathers of evergreen spill earthbound to mark all the places I have sawed trees until seasons of snow draw the dust somewhere new.

________

Rakers scoop, two-pronged, behind teeth, iron-barbed, all sting, all prick, all regret, hook back, hook forward, catch clothes, catch emotion, catch hesitation, draw blood, catch paralysis, catch fear.

________

When I hold a crosscut saw in my arms, I curl my fingertips into the gullets like the smooth half-domes are made for the spread of my hands, and I pretend that the distance between my fingers is familiar when really my hands have never been secure in this shape of touch.

________

I carry the saw. Fastened to my pack. I wrap it in a strip of old fire hose, slide it through the top loops of my shoulder straps, letting it span like wings beyond my arms, wobble with my steps, feeling the teeth, razor-sharp and separated only by a skin of cloth and rubber, nudge against my neck, against vertebrae calcified over spinal cord, alive with the thrill of that contact, with the thought that if I fall, the teeth will rip through tendon and bone and nerve just as easy as through subalpine fir, because against the possibility of gore still I carry the saw, I always carry the saw, because I won't let you carry the saw.

________

As to the big thing, sawing, it is something beautiful when you are working rhythmically together—at times, you forget what you are doing and get lost in the abstractions of motion and power. But when sawing isn't rhythmical, even for a short time, it becomes a kind of mental illness—maybe something even more disturbing than that. It is as if your heart isn't working right.

—Norman Maclean

________

Only pull the handle across your chest. You can pull however you want—with your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, thighs, calves, or all or some at [End Page 150] once. You can pull to your right or pull to your left, as long as the blade runs in line to me. If you warp the saw through the wood I will know. If you yank my knuckles into bark I will let go of the handle and let your body fold back with the momentum you thought I would bear. If you push the saw, I will stop. I will always pull away.

________

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll keep sawing, shoulders aching, feet prickling numb, silence a mound in my mouth, calluses splitting new, until the wood clamps around the saw...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 149-151
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-11
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.