The Stump Burners


The Stump Burners

We were disciples of fire, my young brother and I,
the Stump Burners. Behind the barn, two
hollowed-out mulberry trunks stood head-high.
So, we chocked them full of busted boards,

doused with gasoline, struck our matches in sync,
called down fire, and watched the trunks
grow holy and blazing with heat. From wooden
chimneys, fire-tongues flicked

into the sky, declaring: I AM who I AM,
who I AM, who I AM. All afternoon, we tended
fire in fire-walled stumps—fed fire
through knot-holes in a transfiguration

of stumps till dark fell on the day of fire. Furnaces
crumbled, coals shimmered in three-
personed life–red, black, and white. Showers
of cinders ascended the night,

then christened our faces, a fire-fall of ash
raining like visitation in the fire-
stormed night. From the other side of glowing, I hear
my cow-licked and fire-happy brother say,

Make the fire come down! Make the fire
come down! And I think how we knew each other
in cinder-lit dark, our human faces
refined in the fulgent forge and fellowship of fire—

the baby brother I could not keep,
the beauty of ash on a child’s skin, the last coal
pulsing in testimony against
the wide, deep, and dark of night. To a day of burning,

to furnace-fire in hollowed stumps, I trace
the true knowing of my brother:
his best voice calling down fire—his pure, sweet, and
most lasting face shining in a circle of fire.


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