The night wind blew steady
Ripping away leaves dulled
By a succession of cold nights.
He knew what the cold morning would bring:
A forest of bare branches,
A carpet trail of layered leaves packed by wind and rain.
In preparation, he put file to axe head cradled in his lap,
Flipping the axe every few minutes.
Testing evenness by the reflection of a lone gas lamp,
Sharpness, first against his thumb nail,
Lastly by shaving a small patch of forearm.
Satisfied, he cradled the tool and cleaned axe head and handle
With an oil-impregnated rag stained auburn by years of metal and wood.
Leaning the implement in a corner of the cabin next to his boots,
He lowered the wick, dimming the lamp, and curled onto his cot,
Faithful dog repeating the motion on the floor beside him,
And fell quickly to sleep,
To dream of life on his beautiful mountain trails.