Using the reoccurring images of fire and smoke, these two poems by Clyde Kessler return us to the ephemeral, elemental nature of our dream-like existence whose only constant is change, the morphing of one reality into another: “Soldiers kept laughing because they were spacemen/ immune to space. The poet confessed the same/ to all of us. Landing on another world was smoke.”
by: Clyde Kessler
One night a poet confessed being buried
was chimney smoke. He told me oil lamps
stole the fire, and the casket gullied the room
into a family. The scene was old-fashioned
like my words and my silence. There was
one window and it only reached a spider’s eyes.
It might have happened in Virginia, 1890.
Or it might have been a thousand winters ago
in orbit around Mercury, fire in the clothing
that a ghost wrestles from its body. The planet
squeezed my house down against the landing site.
Soldiers kept laughing because they were spacemen
immune to space. The poet confessed the same
to all of us. Landing on another world was smoke.
Once they spied me, I flew
through barbed wire, pretending
it was a cloud that could never tear
holes through my face, if my face
was lightning twined inside the wire,
and if they ever spied me, they knew
there were only five icicles in my skull
because an old man loses every heartbeat
like a suitcase in Miami, while he’s
circling Corpus Christi, or taxiing
towards moonlight graveled from glass.
If the above stanza says anything, you can witness
some fire created by the silence inside this poem.
You can toss it on top of the fire. This kind of smoke
feels like barbed wire, too. It presses you home.
Home may never be a prison, but you wouldn’t know
for sure, and you wouldn’t ever short-circuit there.
Or could you drift from wire to wire, like heaven to home?
Clyde lives in Radford, VA with his wife Kendall and their son Alan. Several years ago, they added an art studio to their house and named it Towhee Hill. In 2017 Cedar Creek published his book Fiddling At Midnight’s Farmhouse which Kendall illustrated. Clyde has recently published poems in Visitant, Mad Swirl, Bending Genres, and Still the Journal, and in the anthology Cowboys and Cocktails, Poems from the True Grit Saloon. He is also helping with a documentary film about the history of Rock Castle Creek in Patrick County.