Teaching Wood to Burn

—Pamela Gross

Ricked splits of maple, alder, fir—

cross-stacked against damp—

wait so long, a blue mold

rinds the wood,

shed of its bark

and soaked through.


Once in the stove,

cold and wet as thawed,

coarse-cut meat,

these pieces are reluctant

to let go the heat

at their hearts.


To coax flame

from their locked rooms,

feign ignorance of fire’s cunning,

and how its many tongues

yearn most

to devour our names.

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