After the Band

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After the Band

Blonde Hailey sings
        hard and
Lean like a
        head
Saw rips bucked trees,
        flinging
Cants and flitches cut
        rough
Edged and splintered
        on a
Summer day. In after
        song,
When canvas-gloved
        sawyers
Go home, and the day
        sits
Still like a hot cooling
        blade,
I drive sawn and un
        banded
Home with Hailey’s
        blonde
Curls still swinging
        felled
And free in the knots
        and pitch
Pockets of her coda’s
        passion—
She is smoke and silence
      in the pines.
What curious times for
        ember
Eyed boys when
        storms
Strike like a band—
        needles
Of straw tinder
        forest
Floors, thunder lines
        crouch
Diatonic against
        the sky,
Beads of rain fall un
        chained
From the rock and roll
        clouds,
Lightning hums a saw
        toothed
Song, the land awakes,
        and trees
Praise fire in the night.

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The Stump Burners

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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.

Scarlet Tongues of Flame

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Scarlet Tongues of Flame

At middle-age, my father planted roses—
the man who never painted or patched, satisfied
with the leaky roof and white siding grown green

with time. He broke ground in early spring,
not long after mom found his truck grafted
to the weedy shadows of a woman’s house in town.

I remember the day the mail-order roses
arrived. My father sifted the thick-caned,
dormant plants from the damp wood shavings

in which they were packed—Double Delight,
Pilgrim or Prince, Wandering Star, Eden’s
Peace, and Scarlet Tongues of Flame.

On planting day, dad plowed the sunny
plot with a new tiller—muscling the straining
machine like a wild horse he could not quite

control. By summer, the leafed-out, stubby
stems rendered their first true buds—small, tight
fists of color. Yellow, white, pink, cream,

and red ellipses hovering in the stifling heat.
Some summer nights, he walked the blooming
rows, wrapped in the aloof company of roses

while we ate or slept, every cupped and knotted
bud rising like secret love or thorny questions
whose answers slowly unfurl. I wish

I could see him now—standing in the tilled plot,
staring down passionately perfumed rows, searching
for hidden flowers in the moon-softened dark,

but finding, I hope, what comforts beauty bestows
in the place of the rose, what deep-seated truths
crown in the petal-cloaked heart of the rose.