On Fire

by Linda Parsons Issue: Fall 2017 Special Issue on Extinction

We live in a perpetually burning building,
and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.
                    —Tennessee Williams

Embers in the gloaming spit like tickseed
from grasses, tiny fires too multiplied for the jars

and reach of granddaughters, sparks freed
from molten layers below. Even the purple

light draping high-hatted oaks cannot dull
the goldmound spirea, the spider lilies’ lumen,

nor quiet the youth of the new sheepdog
at my feet. If our shaky earth is indeed a timber

house perpetually afire, where only love
can rush in and save us, let its burning

cover the native ground we live and perish on,
maddened with loss in between. Let it flare

and singe our eyebrows, the nests of squirrels
and mockers, release their chittering at our malice

aforethought, uneasy purification. The sepia
photos of great-greats we stack by the curb,

the recipe box with handwritten cards,
our back and forth still maddened with heartache.

We rest a moment to clear our lungs,
take the tally of disaster versus rescue.

We count our blessings, though the blackened
corners flake off at our touch.


Linda Parsons

Linda Parsons is a poet and playwright and an editor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She is the reviews editor at Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, a supporting editor of New Millennium Writings, and has contributed to Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, and other journals and anthologies. Her most recent poetry collection is This Shaky Earth.