The skeletal trees, barren now,
wear their winter kimonos preparing
for snow, and this morning I could taste
the burn of chimney fires in the valley.
Tonight, I begin the ritual of wood,
crossed in a pit that is as sooty
as a cathedral, as wide as the altar
at the end of its darkening aisle.
I will strike a match to light
the crumpled Sunday Times tucked
beneath the virgin wood, and sing
my mother’s Scottish lullabies,
bowing low to hold my hands near
the flame. I will listen to the pools of sap
that pop up like prayers in the apse
of this crooked cabin. I will curl up
in the folds of a couch and pray
for nothing more than a foot of snow,
as the fire paints the walls with summer.

Richard Fenwick is a poet and Russian translator who works with Holocaust survivors from the former-Soviet Union. His poetry has been featured in various American and UK journals and quarterlies, and his first collection, "Around the Sun Without a Sail," was published in 2012. Richard lives in and writes from Tucson, Arizona.

I wrote Fire Ritual during an October trip to the mountains. Winter was coming, and I imagined the locals would soon light their first fires. The notion felt reverential, so I made a small list of  words I associate with church interiors, and tied them to the act of lighting a fire. Given this, the  cabin is a cathedral, lighting the fire is a rite taking place within it.




Copyright 2009