FIRE AND JEWEL by Sydney Lea
Eighty-foot hemlock, spruce, fir, and pine–
They kept lifting off their stumps like so many rockets,
Smoke-trails and all. And I
Beheld the fire cross-lake from where I drifted.
I’d been pounding the water for bass when my eyes were lifted.
Fifty years later, I still recall my thoughts,
And how I thought that to think them was more than odd:
I felt gladness at having the faculties to notice
The hill’s spectacular, orange heat as it flared
To white with each explosion,
Then the whole of the conflagration bending toward earth,
A horizontal wall, a monolith,
That somehow tore downhill in a sudden blast
Of wind. It was gorgeous. Several hours would pass
Before I knew the flames had set Bo Tyson
Flying down Blake Cove Mountain on his grapple skidder
And into the lake by Stearns Island.
He had to take the loss. It was that or burn.
Donald Peavey, wielding an axe in his turn
With the makeshift crew, collapsed from labor and heat.
Mason the storekeeper dragged him away by his feet.
I knew Don, sadly, only a few more years.
He and Bo and Mason: all good honest men.
I can’t account for my dreams,
But last night I dreamed I watched that fire again.
Miles above, in what seemed pure quiet, serene,
The same jetliner crossed as did years ago,
The same scent rose– torched needles, caustic smoke,
The same diabolic roar coming on as I rocked
In the same canoe, the waves still slapping its hull.
In an hour five decades back
The length of that ridgeline turned as black as onyx.
My dear wife’s latest birthday will soon be upon us.
Is that why the dream passed smoothly into the next one?
I saw, precisely, a beautiful onyx pendant,
Hung on a chain from that comely woman’s neck.
I’d never dreamed such a lover as that rough ridge blackened,
Wouldn’t meet her for years and years. Nonetheless,
I drove to a jewelry shop upriver this morning,
Three hundred miles to the west of Blake Cove Mountain.
On buying the necklace, I felt some fire in my being,
Mild version of one that one ancient June got kindling,
And underground, for a long time after, kept burning.