Northwords Now Issue 37

The FREE literary magazine of the North


by Stewart Sanderson

“Flame is the intoxication of inert matter.”Ivo Andrić, Omer Pasha Latos

For an hour now I have watched wood getting drunk
on what waits within it – cold as a bottle
of brandy hurled out of a speeding horse-sleigh
into a snowdrift

till the first hot smirch of paper smouldering
through a nest of twigs and desiccated moss
wakens the little god which had lain sleeping
in the frozen logs.

Imprisoned all winter in the leafless chips
of maple, into which no light now reaches
to renew the hungry cells, I watch the fire
flare up, attempting

to fly whatever shackles of compulsion
kept it hidden in the cool heart of the treew
hile the summers dwindled. Letting themselves go
like hardened drinkers –

hill farmers on Hogmanay or oilmen come
to shore after a month out in the middle
of some northern sea – the logs begin to blur
forgetting their forms

in a binge of energy, whose hangover
is ashes; a soft grey insubstantialness
the wind will scatter, tomorrow, on the still
stone-sober country.