The Fire: A Poem by Cynthia Sharp and Timothy Shay

[Note from Cynthia Sharp and Timothy Shay: “The Fire is our response to the forest fires that devour the Cascadia region in the overly hot summers resulting from climate change. It’s submitted exclusively to The Miramichi Reader with permission from both authors.”]

What was the name of the blaze that warmed you    burned you    scarred you    lifted you as ash is lifted?

The blaze of her love in my life    beloved grandmother    that for which I would sacrifice anything  until I stopped    recovered myself    went through flames to freedom    now on the other side    of the country   in wildfire

and beneath the smoke, beneath the red sun and obscured moon, the memory, the kindling and sparkle, the footprint in sand, a bowl cupping cinders and famous ash

eclipsed until masks burn away, until my voice is the only flame, then gone into earth phoenix we are not, but having spoken our words remain, a singed orange sunrise behind a veil of smog

and the smog and heat foreshadow a future    a desert of thoughtless  sand    a hibernation of dryseed in the crisp cocoon of no time    all the watches no toc no tic    paralyzed by an idea of time missing as the heads that held it    heads once clamouring for more more   now now a whimper of nothing    dreamerless    no dream

to speak in these dying days    parched tongues    charred paradigms    how you burn   controlled and uncontrolled    devastating, freeing, alive    open mouth    vernacular ripple    ring after ring unwound

the song of the saints of smog    evangelical dragons flatulent with contrived hopes of a returning messiah   now their consumptive prayers have conjured apocalypse    laid waste to Eden    our smouldering garden    our metropolis of Gomorrah   our end curated by the profits of religion

elephants stand still   burn alive   no longer believe they have strength to resist   years of life disappear into oblivion as our planet heads into stardust   the pause before the next big bang

in towers of charred bone above seas of plastic, blood, and fecal rot   in wild flaming forests that will continue to swallow cities of the poor and deluded.

Yet we have forgotten the women of birds and volcanoes and warm home hearths, their bread and the calm song of cool eventide, morning of inviting sun beckoning growth rather than parching tongues

See also  Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, Edited by Christine Lowther

We have forgotten Agnayi, Aibheaog, Aodh, Arani, Brighid, Caia Caecilia, Chantico, Freya, Fuchi, Gabija, Hestia, Ida, Itzpapalotl, Li, Mahuika, Nantosuelta, Oya, Oynyena Maria, Pele and Vesta

O great Stata Mater help us now to quench the outrageous flames of greed and conquest to turn these fires back to small warm lights of safe home and comfort

O Stata Mater protect us now from the world fire, although we have forgotten you, or are all the forgotten Goddesses staked and burning in the heat of culmination, the friction of insatiability?

As the last fire goes out we bury ourselves in words   wrap them around us for safety   sleep in handmade paper   breathe only nirvana

sorrows of lost years dissipate   voice returns   after the fire of patriarchy that divided our earth when jealous adults took too much   her candle extinguished

I listen for her presence   spirit and soil inhale as one   endure   quiet quotidian sky

Goddesses abide as we invite them   fan the air around them   allow them to emerge within us  she who was everything still with me   how she would prepare oatmeal each morning   lie beside me as I gently awoke   a communion of being   ordinary light

Timothy Shay is the author of The Dirty Knees of Prayer and This Cabin as the S.S. Titanic. He has contributed to numerous chapbooks and magazines, including The Fiddlehead, CV2, Grain, This Magazine and Rolling Stone and his work has aired on CBC Radio. 

Cynthia Sharp is a full member of The League of Canadian Poets and the author of Rainforest in Russet. She has been published and broadcast internationally in journals such as CV2, Lantern Magazine and untethered, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology.

Timothy and Cynthia putting the final editing touches on this poem at the Britannia Public Library in East Vancouver. (Photograph by Wendy Bullen Stephenson)
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
October 26, 2020 15:21

Absolutely beautiful Cynthia and Timothy.
Congratulations on getting into the Miramichi Reader..
Well done!

Cynthia Sharp
Cynthia Sharp
October 26, 2020 15:55

Thanks Herb!