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.


The Day of Disappearance

The Day of Disappearance
for Shell

Everything that moves
disappears, as I learned once
photographing my brother rowing
our green jon boat against

a winter sky. From each end,
we pushed out through spiked rushes
and button-bushes in low light.
Holding the shutter open

on “bulb” and the camera lens
fixed on my backlit brother,
I recorded on a single
frame our time-lapse glide

to the lake’s center, thinking:
this is how we see the still-life
of time, how we know the pale
secrets of motion and light.

Later, in the prints, his thick
arms are gone where they moved
the most, the paddle blurs
into a brown ghost of wood

dipped in the pond’s silver plane,
surface water shines like winter
clouds through his already
transparent body—but,

then again, this is how we go:
first, the arms and legs in motion,
fading; the trunk luminous
like photos overexposed;

and, finally, the whelming
flood of cold water pouring
straight through the empty
spaces of bone and heart.