fire-camp, and stars

Yesterday, after a walk along the trail we call Cedar Bridge, it seemed like a good idea to have an outdoor campfire (or “fire-camp”, as Francophone Manon calls it). John was delegated to make the fire and Forrest arranged chairs around it. I made hot chocolate, tucked a bottle of Carolans Irish Cream into the basket, along with gingerbreads and leftover Christmas cake. I found the marshmallow forks hung in the rafters of the workshop. It would Arthur’s first fire-camp.

The fire crozzled (a good Yorkshire word). Lots of smoke. No heat. The hot chocolate was lukewarm. The marshmallows burst into flame instead of toasting to a golden brown. Arthur was fussing and maybe the smoke stung his eyes.

But then it got dark. An owl hooted far away (though when we hooted back, it went quiet). The fire caught nicely and the last marshmallows on the fork were just the way I like them. The moon rose over Hallowell, smudgy in the fog. And the stars came out, one by one, in the western sky, visible between passing clouds and branches of high fir. I thought of an old poem of John’s, written for Arthur’s father Forrest during the summer we lived in a tent with a young baby and worked on the lumber and concrete footings that eventually became a house. Then a home.

When you sleep I look up

from the fire cleansed


of names, any further

attempt at description, all

but the absurdities of range I fathom


laughing a little, amazed

to see them.

— John Pass, from “The Stars”, publishing in Forecast: Selected Early Poems (1970-1990)


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