Two Essays by Sean Prentiss

Sean Prentiss

Sean Prentiss

Sean Prentiss is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave. Prentiss is also the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a creative nonfiction craft anthology. He lives on a small lake in northern Vermont and serves as an assistant professor at Norwich University.

Rain Gear

It hasn’t stopped raining in this old growth forest [where Utnapishtim’s ark would feel at home] in thirty-three days. All of May we’ve seen not a wink of a sun we dream about in our tents, a sun we would lift our faces to & sing if only it would shimmer through this spruce & pine [& cascading water] forest. It’s a sun we talk about in hushed tones around a campfire built using chainsaw gasoline. One of us whispers across the smoky flames, I want to see the sun just to remember what it looks like.

Maybe we all say that.

Later, we stream to our tents—let the rain snuff out our fire. It always does. In damp bags, we toss & turn [still wearing our yellow rain suits] & wish tonight no longer for dry hickory shirts & socks but instead we sleep to [& sing along with] the song of our rain-river as it currents beneath tent walls, singing damp melodies in our ears of misty rains & sleets, hails, & snows—a world entirely & only consisting of cascading rivulets, gushing showers & torrenting floods that soak even our dreams.


Last night, you clothed the crosscut saw with alcohol until it shone as it did in 1925, the year it was forged. Today, you pull the saw’s teeth through the ponderosa pine that lies slung across the Buckhorn Trail. As the saw sinks into the cut, sapwood—callous thick—gunks every draw of the rackers across wood. Russet shavings cascade to the Oregon duff as sinewy arms tug hardwood handles to chest, then loosen. The other sawyer, Cori, leans back, rocks her hips & pulls; the eighty-year-old saw as quiet as a breeze. Teeth sever the cambium, sap oozes, raising the scent of vanilla—as if someone is baking down trail. The smell dreams you to home many miles & memories away, food from an oven—ham or turkey. Rocking on the balls of logger boots you pull—back & forth & back & forth—teeth cutting into pith. An hour from first nibble, the rakers pull final blond curls from heartwood, phloem, under-bark, & bark. Your arms, even after hours, never tire of this pull.