Tending Fire

I know the secrets of wood. My father
never taught me how to build a fire,
so I watched him silently twist
newspapers around kindling and place
them where the flames were most needed.
I glimpsed what coals he raked
and when he reached for the tongs
to turn logs to control the burning.
He was the great conductor
of the family home, and I now
pirouette between andirons
and ashes in his memory. I like
to watch things burn. Old drafts
of words are the most satisfying
to see blacken on a hot black log.
First words that I have striked
and reordered stoke the fires
in my house and add fuel for all
I have discarded since my father’s body
entered the crematorium and never
returned. I wasn’t there when he first died.

Eric Machan Howd

Eric Machan Howd (Ithaca, NY) is a professor of professional and technical writing at Ithaca College. His poems have appeared in (selected) “Nimrod,” “River City,” “The Healing Muse,” and “Yankee Magazine.” Eric is also a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives, loves, and writes with his glorious spouse and their two cats, Byron and Footnote.