Meleager’s Curse

The logs I put on this shameful fire are wet
Although I have nothing to base this on
But the fact that they were once collected
Like lost children in the earliest part
Of past spring, encased in a thousand snows,
And sopped through to the pith by rains that March
And April let loose through the haggard woods
Where they first came to life, then were hewn down,
Then split apart by flex of axe and maul.

The logs I put on this shameful fire are wet
And will only sputter now like old men
Faced with an impossible choice between drink
And a winking spark of pert nonchalance
Offered by a pretty slattern’s visit
To the bar, platinum-haired, dolled up and grim
With smiles. The logs now tumble, smoke and hiss—
Dismissing fate, soggy with lassitude,
Indifferent to what burns them at last.

The logs I put on this shameful fire are wet
And daylight tapers outside my window
Into porcelain blue, brittle and fazed
With February weather. I poke the logs;
They answer briefly before returning
To their witless sleep. Or do they dream
They are vaunting like masts amid their days
Of swaying June? Or in their senescence
Are they still flagrant with dreams about fire?


  1. Rufus McCain says

    I feel this. “Flex of axe” is great as is the repetition and the overall flat moroseness so well evoked.

    See also:

  2. Rufus,

    Bingo! Thanks!

    And thanks for the tip – but to be honest the inspiration here came from reading a bunch of Soviet dissident poets* and watching the wood from next winter cache try to get with the polar vortex program as it struggled to do justice to my pot-belly stove. (We ran out of this year’s wood last week…)

    *NB: nothing political should be inferred from the poem – I was rather struck by what Brodsky says about Marina Tsvetaeva:

    “Tsvetaeva is the unique case in which the paramount spiritual experience of an epoch…served not as the object of expression but as its means, by which it was transformed into the material of art.”

    Not sure I quite did THAT – but I was intrigued by the idea of doing something along those lines….

    • Rufus McCain says

      Coincidentally/cosmically, I heard an ad on the radio for that website as I was returning from the dentist this morning.

  3. The other title I was toying with: “Premature Inflammation.” But it sounded too much like a skin condition…

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