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December 17, 2022

Rebuilding Fire

Mitchell Nobis

We fall asleep

in a tent a

few miles south

of Hell. No,

really, we have a

town named Hell

here. My boys

doze as someone

rifles off a hundred

gunshots far enough

away toward Hell

that I know we’re safe

this time, out here.

The boys stir. They

breathe. I would

attract every bullet

like a goddamned

black hole right now

if I knew they’d

be okay forever but

that’s not how it

works, not everyone

gets to be Jesus

even if you

want to.

Somewhere closer

but not near, dogs—

maybe 3?—roar

with the fury of

scared beasts at

the unknown, roar

like tornados,

like howitzers,

like walls of flame,

like hellstorm.

Sorry but

I’m not sleeping tonight.

The guys at the

campsite around the

corner make wild

calls till 4:00, a

bacchanalia of two

dudes yelling “Friday!”

and feral hoots

like one assumes

they assume

a griffin would

sound like.

I celebrate their

happiness but still

try to sleep with my

Leatherman closed

in my hand.

Anyway, warm for

October but still

cold, I cover them

with blankets over

their sleeping bags.

Warmth. I pull back

the rain fly, let

the stars into

the tent as more

join us through

the new gaps the

leaves leave as

they fall onto our

tent all night.

pat                   pat                   pat

Our fire’s embers

tendril smoke—

I breath that

instead of air.

Let me stay, tonight,

in tonight. Let me

breathe our fire,

carry it to tomorrow

when my eight-year-old

wakes early, rebuilds

the fire with me,

roasts an apple out

of delicious curiosity

and basks in its warm

success. We startle

from the sound

of firecrackers—

near—then see

the white flashes

through the trees—

sandhill cranes

taking flight

across the small lake.

They call. We listen.

We don’t answer. We

speak the wrong tongues.

The boys, later, on the

dock, lie flat, reach,

pick white feathers

out of the water,

hold them high to

morning light.

The feathers glow

as sun rises over

red & orange trees,

and we all watch

white feathers light

like fire in the

warming sun, happy to

be here, thankful

to have experienced

it at all.