The Fireplace

We’re building a Rumford: the mortar receives each brick
and the courses absorb moisture in a running bond
of waterstruck mattes. We use the attraction, the bed
soothing imperfections around the kiln stamp.

In Colonial winters, houses burned twenty cords
of split oak and elm, wind shaking bubbled glass.
Below the windows, batts for insulation and protection;
wattling holding slung trowels of heavy plaster.

We begin slight curves on both sides of the fireback—
like upraised arms of a televised minister, pointing
us on the path to salvation, his intention so cynical
the hollow columns are more believable. Give me

festivals through streets lit by candles, dollar bills pinned
to St. Anthony of Padua, songs and hymns, gelato
and lemon ice, carts of fried dough and hot sausages, aunts
in black brocade and daughters in communion dresses;

smoke of apple wood blowing above the ridge, the flame clinging
and curling, drawn to surfaces, the shiny creosote
and smooth clay, channel of air along the plank floor
that sends it heavenward, incense in the chancel’s stars.

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