Fire lit furtively in autumn fields,
camouflaged, smoke drifting
with concealing wisps of fog;
smouldering, spluttering twigs,
only fitfully alight:
we scour the scarlet-berried hedges for dry tinder,
to keep it burning in the rank, damp grass.
Fire: toasting crumpets
and mottling legs with rosy patterns,
carried by shovel from room to room,
glowing sulphurous coals
lifted from grate to grate,
with Dad grim-faced, lips pursed,
the keeper of the household flame,
intent only on the tricky job in hand,
avoiding dropped embers and scorched rugs,
and Mum’s subsequent distress.
Fire in the stubble,
devouring disease and weed,
travelling the raked rows of yellow straw,
flickering advance of licking tongues;
in their wake a trail of dry black
replicas of living leaves and stalks
and a column of heavy smoke
rising in the still air,
forming a crowd of infant cumulus.
Fire on the moor,
burning the heather, charring the peat,
clearing the land, patch by purple patch,
scorched earth, controlled
with blazing flares in sooty hands,
producing soft dove-grey ash, where,
phoenix-like, new growth will spring afresh.
Fire, the constant friend;
fire, the ever-threatening foe;
fascinating fire of childhood,
of home and hearth;
fire, the tool of farm and heath.
Now, in our house, we have no fire,
and life is the poorer for its passing.