Vestal Crone

In her late sixties now,
kneeling before the Iron box
glass-fronted,
soot stained,
she opens the door,

She faces 
the remnants
of an old fire’s ashes
left by he,
who the night before,
wove the magic
of metal on metal
striking the spark
to open the flames,
but he is not present now,
on a cold afternoon
when she and the night-black cat
desire the comfort 
and warmth of the dancing flames.

So, on her knees,
she cleans the glass,
the cloth taking the soot
to itself and leaving
the way clear
to see the fire’s glory.

Rolling up lengths of newspaper,
and wringing them like wet rags,
the deeds and misdemeanors
of days past 
squashed and rumpled,
are placed carefully
on the ash-bed,
a bit of thin kindling added,
and cotton ball
teased and pulled apart
complete the preparations,
awaiting only the striking
of metal to metal.

Spark, spark,
sparksparkspark
and the kindling catches,
now she feeds 
the slightly larger 
bits of wood,
and last of all
the fire logs,
and the door is closed,
secured
as flames dance.

Time to give thanks
for the gift of fire,
and begin the vigil
so the flames do not
splutter,
glow brightly,
die – 
for this is her true job,
to maintain the fire
for the day
to take off the chill,
to gladden the heart,
to challenge the cold of winter,
until the night comes
and in time the fire
is allowed to fall away
into glowing embers
and at finally to grey ash
for the night.

Until, 
the morrow, 
when fire is once more 
coaxed to life
in the iron box,
glass-fronted,
soot stained.

Clouds & Fire, Shadow & Smoke

On walk a week or so ago I was observing and pondering different phenomena of the world around me, letting myself try and understand forms of being, entities of energy that are alien in their expression of existence, but in their own ways alive . . .

I followed the clouds
scudding across the summer blue sky
chased the shapeshifters unsurpassed
moving clumsily in comparison
unable to glide
from field to pathway
to landscapes shorn of grass
to the road
though fields studded
with black wrapped
silage bales waiting
immobile
the grasses and flowers
unable to sway or bend
in the breezes
unable any longer to breathe.

The clouds moved ambushing the sun
turning day to dusk
and magicking away shadows,
those deceivers of form
who lengthen and shorten
from hour to hour,
who blinked out
and as soon winked back
into sight once more.

Clouds and shadows
playing
each with the sun
using greys and white
light and darkness
as pawns in a game
seeking and hiding
teasing the spirits
tempting me to follow,
irresistible
in variants of grey,
so many and only one word
to span the space
between white and black
mixtures of both in degrees
of intensity and neither
at the same time.

All the while
so many words for beige:
ecru and sand,
oatmeal and stone,
tan and taupe,
but only a single word
for the shades and subtly
of tone and concentration
for all those colours
strung in space
where white and black
mingle but do not meet
cannot connect in
absence and presence untinted.

I chased the clouds in wonder
and followed them amazed,
until I turned a corner
and found a fire,
dancing danger
in the orange shards
that have no form
but possess for an instant shape
melding and fracturing
in ceaseless motion,
reckless restless gestures,
flickering and twisting,
contorted flame throwing heat
producing waves of distortion
the hedge behind
shimmering into invisibility.

Rough pieces of flame
tearing from the firebase
like bits of fabric
carelessly tossed aside
the conflagration mesmerising
daring me to watch
taunting me lest I turn away,
transfixed I am unable
to move when a sudden shift
brings a moment of wind
that calls forth smoke
to join the fire in its
flirtatious dance
and as it seems to see me
it overtakes me
and I am wreathed
in the visible choking scent
dry wood and drier grass.

Then as suddenly as it joined
the dance the smoke cleared
leaving only the flames
visible to me,
rising high extending
breaking free the escape
gravity’s pull vanishing into
emptiness
not bound by the forces
holding me earthbound
keeping me together,
still the frenzied dervish
of red yellow blue
spins and twists
reaching forth as if
to grab the clouds above my head,
yet the fire cannot
for all its mad straining
span that space before
vanishing angry and unsubdued
until its food runs down
and only frustrated embers
remain when flame and raging
are only memories
and the clouds
have shifted shape
a thousand times
and shadows in their turn
receded.