Controlled Burn

            By late afternoon strong winds
pick up down the main lake channel.
I let the flames rest, cool to ash.
I wet them with the garden hose, coals
sizzling, gasping in the flood of water.
For my own fire, I down bottled beer,
watch the blackened scars
at the bottom of the hill for a wisp
of smoke, a wave of heat in the late sun.
The evening news is full of flames,
kindled from dead leaves and windfall.
It is difficult to hold back a fire.
Flames leap the pit, the scratched ring
I’ve raked to rock, to nothing.

After 43 years of teaching English in public schools, Al Ortolani lives a life without bells and fire drills in the Kansas City area. He walks regularly with his rescue dog Stanley. Stanley is mostly non-verbal, but he appears to enjoy the sentiment in a well-voiced poem.

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