THE FIRE KEEPER
-- for E.L. Moran
Though a wing could carry more weight than your arms,
I watched you walk out back beside the barn,
where traces of windblown snow covered logs
you had cut and piled last year when your wrists
were twice as thick as the ax-handle now held
in your hands, those spent husks, frail as the moment
when a falling star is suddenly visible, then lost.
You bent over and placed your hands on the cold bark,
each vein in your arms as thin as a line of longitude.
I sensed you believed the place you stood,
was nearly imagined like a constellation's nexus.
Quick breath-plumes, smoky though silent, drifted
up above your head like a magician's frosty helmet,
something that was less tremulous, but as revealing
as the cancer's sleight-of-hand, which for years,
performed its black magic for a body of one.
From where I stood on the back porch
I heard you first curse, then laugh like a comet
that had been granted the gift of rest from its orbit.
You stood upright with three pieces of split oak in your arms,
cradling them like they were charmed, then slowly
you turned to face me like an oncoming eclipse.
Never had the way to build a fire been so beautiful.
And the sky, vaporous, blue, deep, carried on without you.
MICHAEL McMANUS has had two Pushcart Prize nominations and he was the recipient of an Artist Fellowship Award from the Louisiana Division of the Arts. He attended Penn State University. Selected publications include Wind Magazine, Raintown Review, Rhino, The Lyric, Poet Lore, Prism International, Atlanta Review, Louisiana Review, Rattle, Texas Review, and West Wind Review 20th Anthology Edition. He has poems forthcoming in ONTHEBUS, Parting Gifts, and Homestead Review, among others.