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Appraisal Manual for Timber and Timber Land
By Michael Zbigley

prepared by William Eastman and Michael Bigley
for the State of Washington, 1952

He’s leaning back on a felled tree, arms crossed behind,
and the tree, laying down, is as tall as he is,
and it must be very solid, that wood,
but all around his shoulders the light is coming
and up in the trees behind him the wood is shredding
in all that brilliance, and he is smiling and squinting
a little, though we know that everything, everything that is, is light,
and this is not speculation, this picture taken circa 1931.
The biography is not important to this book,
this book of details, of tables, this book of how-to,
this dated book of human estimation-- this book of worth.

My grandfather in the sanitized room asked me again
what I studied. English, I said, and he smiled,
It’s about time you learned English. He knew trees by sight,
by smell. If he experienced wood as solid it is because he knew
the warp of grain under a knife, the waves of texture
given to fingertips. Do not think he knew less of other things
therefore. If I asked, he’d name any tree, any shrub,
any seed the size of a pin prick containing
a wish to rise, topple, and decay: a wish to light.

The overwhelming light in the photograph
is a function of the photographer’s incompetence.
A better angle, a sharper aperture. . . . It was, of course,
a brilliant mistake, but it is easy to read too much into this.
I thought that these tables and numbers
should hold a germ of knowledge that I could scrape out,
hold underneath my fingernail, or at least feel,
take in from the old pages decaying in my hands,
that if I held the book gently to my face
my grandfather should radiate out,
infuse the porous light of me.

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