The Day the Field Burst Into Flame: Another View

                                              - Christopher Howell


I think of old Mrs. Johanssen walking past
on her journey to and from the store each day
at dusk., and my mind follows the shadows behind her
thrashing as though the sudden trees were running
for their lives

as we had run
up onto my grandmother's porch
for shelter that day in 1951. Could you see this
picture, you might see too the huge
field of weeds and scotch broom
explode, a great hammer of smoke and flame rising
to smite the neighboring fields, Mrs.
Johanssen throwing both shopping bags
over her head and sprinting like a supersonic gnome.

You might turn as we did and find God
right there
playing pinochle with the others, calling out
the tricks and trumps until a wild
wind of blue-tinged rain slashes out of the west
soaking the firemen and the fire
coughs and dies
and He says, "See?"

An estimable sleep may have reached us all
after that. If we are nothing
but this sleep, how
should I know? I'm mortal and was dying
to believe
in the fearless man who sees the form of God

blur and diminish as it moves off
down the path between the orchard and slouching
barn, and who all his life thinks of this
darkening blue outline as something
inside himself that remains
even as flames roar and grin and he's six years old
again and again.