The Works of Fire

That, inside the home, a fireplace burned didn’t much matter; and that, in the end, was the real salt.

Wood is fibrous—just thickened wheat. Each strike through it speaks to some other iteration of its fires. The alchemy of that fire: living wood, pulsing ember, to ash, to traces of all three; darkness to light, then back to where it began. In the Midwest, shirtless boys drive pickups to empty fields, split for hours, before returning in numbers to burn their fires high into the night with the hopes that it will all end near morning, their shirts off again; the wood, having measured its time, now only evidence. Old men with stuffed bowels and pillowed mustaches, dropping cords of pine before cold hearths, will forever groan as they lower themselves to jiggle a loose flue. The penultimate sounds of Joan of Arc. Distant clangs and stacking wood becoming something like a cicada.

The smoke rose and the chimney blackened and in that moment the heat for one became fated for another, toward some other promised beginning or end.

And this wood will carry us out then, by coffin or by flame.

Works of Fire was submitted for WANTED #2, after the deadline and not through the public comments. So we couldn’t take it for the competition. But we had to publish it.

Front page image by nojhan.

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