He used the axe to chisel off the bark,
then he split the logs for firewood.
The coals were giving off that orange-red glow,
but he wanted yellow flames to pierce the night.
He crouched down, then reached over the edge
of the firepit to place the logs on the coals.

In his mind, he remembered how he burst
in on his wife – and her lover. He wanted to beat
them both, to bruise them, to crash them
into the pain he felt. He resisted the urge
to crumple, to let them see his pain. He drew
himself up and walked out, his heart pierced.

And now, in his loneliness, he watches the light
reflect off the sharp edge of the axe blade.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 59 at The Sunday Whirl.


40 thoughts on “Flames

  1. I did not see that ending coming. What fun… if fun can be used in this context. I like how the unexpected turn lifts the poem. I just reread and the deliberateness of the character’s actions and thoughts, never wavering through the poem, leads me to imagine a Law & Order ending.

  2. One has to empathize with this man and hope he doesn’t do something he would regret with that axe…..you have told a good story with the words, and now we need a sequel.

    • Mary, thank you. I’m deliberately not going to write a sequel to this one. Where it goes is up to each reader. But, I agree, I hope his actions don’t create regret.


  3. When I was in college, one of my profs had gone through a very messy divorce. One day, he read a poem he had written afterward about how he carried a heavy tire iron around with him for months, everywhere he went, because it satisfied his rage as nothing else could. Years later, when coming to the rescue of a friend being harrassed by a crazy enraged father, I was handed a tire iron. I swear it came alive in my hands, I remembered my prof’s poem and how it made me feel, so I quietly dropped the thing and decided to rely on words and a call to the police.

    Aside from vividly reminding me of all of that, your poem has that same feel about it. The weighing and measuring of choices fueled by the more primitive elements of the brain. I’m glad you left him simply inside that process of choice. Excellent ending to a very good piece of writing.

    PS Thanks so much for the comments, they are deeply appreciated.

    • Elizabeth, wow. What a story; thank you for sharing it. I’m stunned. Glad you relied on words.

      And thank you for the kind words on my poem. Glad that ending worked.

      You are most welcome for the comments. I enjoy reading your poetry and your prose. Thank you.


  4. Richard! I love your summer break from school! It’s only a week and wowzers…have you written some great stuff!!! I’ll add my “loved the ending” comment. Mostly because you’ve left it open enough for the reader to wonder what happens next.

    oh…and this was a wordle!? holy moly…i love your summer break…. 😉

    • Paula, thank you so much. I’m glad that ending works; I very much wanted to leave it just like that for the reader to wonder and predict what will happen next.

      I’m enjoying my summer break too. 🙂


  5. WOW! This reminds me of the mood of the Jesse Stone books/TV movies. Each move deliberate – I’m trying to say more than what has already been said. Maybe the next wordle will provide clues to the next events in this ‘man’s’ existence. Thanks for your comments on my wordle… you might also like this one for a Rosemary Mint prompt. I hadn’t thought much of it but had gotten another comment on it and it sort of relates to yours…in the realm of ‘power’.

    • Jules, I’m not familiar with the Jesse Stone stories, but you’ve made me curious. Don’t think I’m going to follow this man any further. I will look into the Rosemary Mint prompt; thanks.


      • Sometimes one glimpse is more than enough. I do hope you enjoyed your swim.
        I belong to a ‘gym’ and really should make it a point to visit it at least once a week….but sometimes there just isn’t any time. I was working on putting in two different tomato plants and one pepper plant I started around noon ish and the next thing I knew it was 4pm! Thanks for your visits.

  6. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? A visceral, evocative poem that could easily turn into tomorrow’s headlines if it were based on a true story…

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