Two or three sticks of cherry molder

in the basket by the fireplace, old

ashes have drifted in the corners. A spider

web as gray as my hair loops from

the flue. Out front, under the overgrown

camellias, I've stacked the rounds

from an oak branch that fell at the end

of summer. The wood will be cured

by next fall—maybe we'll have a fire

then, the three of us huddled in a half-

circle watching the flames, close

as only fire can bring us. I can smell

through forced heat the must of smoke

tucked into jacket pockets, and hear

in the clacking of a flock of sandhill

cranes passing over the pop and crack

of pitch igniting. They say—people

do, not the cranes—that heat is heat

no matter what the source, and don't

see any loss in the conversion.


Jeff Ewing's poems, stories, and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Sugar House Review, Crazyhorse, Southwest Review, Dunes Review, and Saint Ann's Review, among others. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.