I work the edges first,
back-burning along the fence line
to keep the fire from running into the woods.
Where the horse has not trampled,
the grass is eager for fire;
it catches and flames,
melting synthetic strands
of the lowest electric wire.
I beat back the surge with the leaf rake.
Smoke etches my eyes,
bringing tears while I stand in patches of fire
for a moment or two.
The wind switches sides
and I am able to work along the line of the posts,
getting most of the fire fodder
pulled away from the fence.
With a firebreak blackened,
I start the burn along the southern side of the pasture,
spreading the edge with the rake,
letting the wind take the work.
The smoke drifts in the lulls,
flattens in the gusts.
The moon hangs bright above the gray,
long thin streaks of clouds lining north below the shining.
The creeping red rim feeds in the stubble,
slipping around the matted flat of winter and walking,
flares in the occasional clump of standing grass.
It is midnight before
I finish the field,
fire dying in the damp nap of the sod.
I crush the remnants
beneath my soot-covered boots,
knowing that both hate and faith
can cling to the least red ember,
catching in the tinder of grass
and flashing out into life again.