All day long a strong prairie wind
has blown in bits of Oklahoma
and sent some of Kansas
a little farther north.
But it has been a warm wind
and when it finally eased off
in the evening, it seemed
like a mighty fine thing to do
so I set up the lounge chairs
on the cracked and weathered boards
of what we might call a back porch
and hauled out the chiminea.
From the dead limbs
we packed out of the yard
of an empty house
down the street
I cut up enough seasoned maple
to make fire seem like an easy thing.
Above the paper towel I’d used
to soak up a spill of paint thinner
I stacked the sticks,
leaning them against a thicker branch
the way a family tends toward
its strongest member
and laying on a larger one
across the top.
A single match managed
to start the fire
and soon a blaze of shadows
played across the vertical slats.
We sat for a couple of hours,
taking slow savory sips
of some twenty-year-old tawny port—
a fine gift from a fine friend—
and took the rest
of a good day’s ending
soaking in the warmth,
talking in low voices
while the dark deepened around us
beyond the glow of the fire
and watching the coals shimmering
through the screen
like love made stronger and better
by something other than oak casks.
We have held to things that last
and found that some of the stronger gusts
may shake the limbs
and stir the dust
but what is held by deeper roots
will bend and sway
and give up whatever
has grown brittle in the dry spells,
but it will not lose its way
even in the long chill of the darkest nights.