A BRIEF VISIT
The sun low in the sky is another
reminder. Cody was always better
at building a fire—he was better
at everything. That’s not just the dead
talking and making big what wasn’t
in life. It’s all physics, he told me
one night dodging trees. Grooves
of the gears and tires in ruts.
All of mud riding is physics. This
was right before we got stuck—
but he worked the truck free
while I fell asleep at the creek.
That’s what I’m getting at here:
the world lost a better man than me.
The fire smolders in its ring
like a vent in the earth
and the burnt wood bones
balanced on the lip.
The trees walk a bit closer
as night comes up and the ghost
of my friend goes back.
Save for the scraps of sky
still fringed in gold above the leaves,
it could have never been day at all.
My grandfather’s woodshed is almost empty,
one line of muddy logs hidden under white.
I remember there being some stigma
about taking from the other pile,
my father’s, behind the barn.
But that was years ago.
It slumps hunchbacked under snow. Silver,
brick-sized chunks for the barn’s Swedish cook stove.
I knock each piece against the pile
and snow slides off like silk scarves.
Tucked in and around the stovelengths
are sticks wrapped in birch bark, chips and shims,
kindling for cold mornings kept dry
where my father stowed them.
Inside, I stock the fire ring.
Three, four trips across the yard,
stepping in my bootprints.
Gaps in a pile are all too evident,
missing teeth in a smile.
I dip my hands to snow and cover them.
MARLEY STUART is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Xavier Review and About Place. He lives in New Orleans with his wife.