Tending the Fire


It is my birthday and             I am away with strangers and friends in the
bush. We stay in little           wooden huts brought over on a boat
from Poland in the 1940s.     Fire pit, communal kitchen, large
elaborate meals, many          children, many dogs. By the third day the
children have gone                wild and the dogs are exhausted. They
play desultorily                       in the ancient dirt.

By the third day the children have gone wild and they hang two soft toys
in the trees.

One    of            the parents is disturbed. The rest of us let them have
it. They are           playing with death. The toys, a skinny-limbed
monkey and a           fat pink elephant, are dust covered and dank.
The  toys   swing            lightly in the September wind. The children
find long sticks and          belt the toys repeatedly. The monkey
loses its left  leg, and          then its right. It is a dirtwet torso,
head, and arms. At the          end of the stay I find one of its severed
limbs, dogchewed and          soggy, near the fire pit. The fire pit is
where I spend three          days. Tending. Keeping the coals hot.
Bathing    in    ash.          Not nearly fast enough to climb along
kindling     and          paper, licking wood and eating the aching air.
Is   this   fast          enough. Is fire fast enough. Is that how to write
the    well.


Quinn Eades