jim hogg

Old Ha's Fire - Poem by jim hogg

Old Ha (younger than we are now I’m sure)
Would carry out the boxes and papers each week
And empty corn beef tins which never burned
To build a sizeable fire in the county yard:

A sprawling outpost of abandoned decades
Army huts and council stores with broken windows
Estranged from that modern world of the sixties
Irrelevant to the flux we chased and played in then

He’d heap the rubbish up and scratch the box
And if the wind was in the west, kneel to the job
The papers would flicker and the liquid flames
Poured back and forth across pages and edges

Until it gained the upper hand. Slowly, the spreading heat
Would capture us, as we huddled together up wind
And gazed, into the dancing kaleidoscope
Bewitched by a primitive secret, hidden

In ourselves or in the strange quiet of the burning.
If we talked, the flames would keep their hold;
We’d angle our heads slightly to the listeners
And talk into the fire, never breaking eye to eye contact

With the scorching deep heart that held us enthralled.
Ha would stand with a stick, and, every now and again,
Exactly at the right moment, poke some slacking,
Some dying patch of flame, and goad it back into life

Always avoiding the hot hypnotic heart of the blaze
The perfect impenetrable centre that fixed us there
Until the precise moment it’s hold began to falter
When suddenly, he would go at it with abandon

Master of the flames again, he disappeared to the shop
Unyoked, we’d disengage, but as if hung-over,
Would stand for minutes, glancing vacantly at the tins,
Lying at strange angles, mottled black and grey

As the ash, light as air, vanished on the wind

15 01 07

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

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