The First Fire
by Suzanne Iuppa
I was shocked on sight: how could I get under this?
A mountain of chips, salted by larch needle drift.
I’d enclosed a tarp, and it perched
on top, like a giant had tried
to cover an embarrassing mess with a tissue, then left.
The fuel was tipped while I was on shift,
a twelve-hour stretch, and now the sun was backing out.
Then it was me, wood, and dusk,
and the hill, dull bracken, a view of winter,
and me again, and two arms; five decades, and two burlap sacks
and the hill, and twenty stone steps. When I started...
in my hands I recognised the heft of softwood and hardwood,
true grain of birch, and I did what I could, at the edges. My spine
reconnected with my hips and the way I spread my weight.
My breath said welcome back to my body, after months.
It had gone well past motion-sensor darkness when I stopped;
tucked a corner of tarp with a piece of oak to stay. For three days
I hauled logs and stacked piles in tight patterns in sheds
and my biceps purred, in concert. My core cried— look, no hands!
as my feet stomped me back up steps to fill the bags again
tendons and lignin in contest, the wood split open to my will,
years shining away in straight layers. I brought a dozen inside, cozied them
up in the straw basket, leaned them against a dead stove, and thought,
hard. Striations through growth I remembered from pregnancy.
I stared for seven more days. The temperature dropped. I told myself:
These are no longer living; touched the core tissue (impossibly soft, the inside
of an elbow, or knee...) marked the occasional knot that snaps like bone,
careful to keep a respectful distance, traced scars, and tasted dust,
heard a concave roar as combust kicked in—
(heart protected, like a seed, by flexibility, and an epical story—)
watched the corpuscle shapes and allowed the luxe draw.
And I found my tongue, and I wanted to speak to you.
Suzanne Iuppa is a poet, community worker and conservationist living in the Dyfi Valley, mid Wales.
Her poems can be found in literary magazines including The Lampeter Review, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Dwell Time, Zoomorphic, Slipstream, The Lake and many others. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the WoLF poetry competition, and Highly Commended in the Mother’s Milk Writing Prize.
She writes her first full collection with a very loud roosting goshawk for company.
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