at the end of the chilly day,
the edge of the woods is alight-
tall trees and low flickering fire-line
against the pale western sky.
the fierce blaze, wind-driven holocaust
burned hot and hard across the land.
the dancing fire-devils are gone.
a flashing firetruck waits
in the smoky air, the faint crackling radio
echoes the dying pops of the embers-
the quick snapping flare
of a pitchpine stump bright
against the long shadows.
God and man have fired
these woods for all time.
the neighbors congregate to watch
and talk, or lend a hand.
we walk the mile-long line
with our shovels and rakes,
soot-covered and coughing
to ensure the fire is dead.
crazy old sanders shouts
to us from the road:
"ticks and snakes! a fire's good!
it kills the ticks and snakes!"
he rides away on his bicycle-
a voice crying out in the night.
i believe him yet i bend to
blackened boots to check
my weary ankles for
signs of life.