Glen Wilson


The poker never lets anything settle,
pushing coals together,
elegant crackling, eloquent forgetting.

Generations have passed through,
stopping to warm their extremities
by turf or coal or wood.

Stories kindle again and again,
briefly there to be grasped by someone who knows
what burns and what can be burned.

Songs come through the wireless,
hymns lift up from the crimson binding
and refrains in Sean-nós fuel these flares.

One night when I couldn’t sleep I heard
my grandfather sing She moved through the Fair
to my uncle, the one who was murdered.

Born a year after his death all I have are memories
based on other’s memories
and his name gifted in the middle of mine.

We were left with empty place settings
at the dinner table where vengeance
taps its fingers waiting, wanting to be fed.

And no one gave him pause or cause
to action but his presence shivers
in the joints with every draft.

Such decisions were made in half-light,
as words fought for meaning
less they slip down the grate.

Answers sleep in cinders edged with orange,
next to harmonies of lives cut short
and descants of lives hindered from being.

This fireplace filters hearsay, heresy and truth,
so many have watched the flames
without consulting the ashes.