Slash Fires

If “slash fire” rolls off your tongue
Like raindrops from a Woods jacket,
There’s every chance you wintered
once upon the Island.
There blokes with acreage and a cow or two
Hacked away at their wooded edges (plots)
after a day’s work in the clear-cuts
to scratch more pasture for the cows.
They sawed rough boards from the timber,
filled the shed with pitchy chunks,
gained more standing with the neighbours
strewn along the gravel roads.
As October’s drizzle slicked the leaves,
made creeks to sing and colours blaze
they’d set the heaps of slash afire.
Each lungful of the perfumed haze
told them they were breathing.

My wife’s Dad, the pilot,
proposed a bonding expedition.
He flew the two of us to Phantom Lake.
Ringed by jagged hills, there’s one way in or out.
The gap looks to the fjord below
where slash fires smoldered in the clearcut.
We fished awhile.
Wind changed and we did not see
the smoke rise to fill the gap.
The pilot dropped his rod and said, “Let’s go!”
It was already late.
Airborne, and fuel low,
we struggled in a circling climb
until we got above the smoke and waiting hills
to find a way to fuel
and chastened, make it home.

On Pat Bay, this spring,
some flimsy houses in a stand of firs
were all brought down
to bulldozed heaps of mangled lumber,
roots and stumps, the sawlogs set aside.
The rest is mud and realtors’ signs.
The slash will burn before the rains are gone.
Thick plumes of smoke will rise to meet the wind,
disperse among the houses on the Tseycum land,
the heron nests in alders standing by,
that familiar odour of the restless.

(April 7, 2015)




heron against orange sun

photo courtesy of Terry Venables


Heron Against Orange Sun

A stillness in the air like snow was coming,
early in the day but it’s too warm.
Dry for a month and months to go
before the quenching of the rains.

Something bad has happened.
The light’s all wrong.
The sun glows like melting steel
in Satan’s forge.

From places near and far
smoke has poured down to us
though valleys from the burning hills
where centuries of patient growth
are ashed in a short day.

Great bird so still
photographed against an orange sun,
in your ancient mind do you recall
this scent of fire?

You ask only for a little
and your wise wings could fly you there
while we are burdened with our taking,
questions and recriminations.



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