Embers

I

By the elder clump
its sharp claws waving but so brittle,
long grass has strangled a magnolia
whose waxy flowers, curled tan
and dead lie by peeps of nightshade
and budlea husks,
their lights gone out for winter.
Everything in this corner awry
and sickly and in my human way,
I must raze it.

But breakfast first:
bacon and fried eggs,
toast and lumberjack jam.
I drain my coffee and boiler-suited
break in, swinging with my axe.
After a while, wanting surgery,
I hurl the axe away and
hearing it ring upon open ground
I take up my bow saw,
its blade taut and
nicked with fibres
from all the tree eating we have done together.
Sawing, we empty the clump to poles,
the floor littered with branches
and I want my axe again – need
its metal heft, the thwack and
strict of its battlefield voice.

Thus back and forth among the trunks,
thick and green and the axe singing,
greedy into the wet all morning and
down into the black afternoon
the air shriek cold and me wordless
and happy behind masks of white cloud
breaking my force against the ground.

II

Four days since it has rained and
our thatch roof is otter-brown,
a pelt shrugging off water
in hours of day silver
going jet with the night
and in the morning
playing the vertical notes
of prison song
onto our stone.
One morning, silence.
all the silver poured out,
spilt reflection of a winter sky
which can give out no more.

III

The village thatch drenched
there is no better time to fly embers.
And I have trophy to burn: elder and bramble,
bones of the old magnolia I leaned out,
popping its pale roots, I have
rude cuts of thorn, prickly yew,
everything strewn and dead must go.

Into the clearing I shift dry logs,
lay them down in a root pit.
It’s a rough nursery for fire –
damp and low down but
fire learns quick and soon
flames have spoilt the logs
with their awful crimson weather.

I hurl on yew and
its surface water steams
and the needle sap like oil
explodes and the flames
flare higher, hungry for more.
Next elder branches, their fingers
fisting in the heat, budlea
gone without pause.

What was wild and standing
thick with age and water ends here,
nature’s dense material
fired to tiny embers
whooshing now upwards
in bright flurries
an orange company
migrating.

I climb through our hedge
and stand in the road, all lordly
and watch ash petals
white as souls
settle on my neighbour’s roof, his car
coming down white on my head.
More embers fly and peak
and fall.
These flecks of carbon
are our lives, each of us
all of us
pouring forth from the furnace,
out of control, drawn together
arcing through the darkness.

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