From the Archive: David Haskins (CAROUSEL 40)

Staff/ November 20, 2021/ Poem


Burning Chair

Under the spreading locust limbs, a chair,
old, rustic, of bent vines and cedar boards,
host to rampant English ivy entwined
around its feet, winding through its spines,
rooting out marrow from its bones,

the splits and nicks and splintered shards,
the frame twisted as if by hurricane,
the seat planks broken from their moorings,
fallen askew, showing rot in their ends.

In the cool autumnal breeze
leaves drift onto the wreck
like pear-shaped daubs of yellow
paint, a last gasp of quiet joy.

The pieces look easy to pry apart,
break into fire grate lengths.
But brads and spikes rust firm in old wood,
and ivy grips tight. This will take
a pry bar, a sledge, and still
the boards split only with the grain
the vines will not snap across my knee.
The chop saw sparks against a nail,
a defiant complaint of rubble denied
the chance to follow its own timely decline.

Flames cast out sweet cedar’s scent
the same as perfumes your hope chest
full of fine fabrics for a hopeless future.

Ashes, like your own remains
handed to me in a cardboard box
with a ziplock bag half full of white dust,
your pulverized and powdered bones.

Once again I must turn the earth, find a place
below the surface, suited to receiving salvage.

David Haskins is the prize-winning author of Blood Rises (Guernica Editions, 2020), This House Is Condemned (Wolsak & Wynn, 2013), Reclamation (Borealis Press, 2000) and over 150 published writings. At the age of eight, Haskins emigrated from post-war Britain to Ontario. For 36 years, six as Department Head, he taught high school English. Now widowed, he has two sons, drives a blaze orange 1970 MGB and resides in Grimsby, ON. More: here

Burning Chair
appears in CAROUSEL 40 (2018) — buy it here

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