One of Native’s boys, the best looking one,
Smacked his car and hiked home with a
Bloody lip to get help from his father as
What to do. Native and I were working
At his farm together but stopped right off
And rode the tractor up the Jelly Mill woods
Road until we came out on the back road
Where the Ford was nose busted into the
Side of a concrete bridge. The boy had lost
Control on the steep hill gravel, spun
Around and was stopped fast by the bridge.
We had to get it out of there before anyone
Reported and the state cops showed —
Besides, Native’s boy didn’t have a license.
So with two log chains Native hitched it
Right and rolled it the two miles home
With all the other kids who showed up
Piling into the front and back seats
I knew Native for five years before Lily
Had his fire but when the trash pail flames
Let go in the Spring wind and spread in a
Dance over his dry fields it was his only
Neighbors he rushed to first because the
Fire department was ten miles off and Lily
Was a hippie without a phone. We didn’t
Have a phone either but used the one in
The Minister’s place and then called Native
Who brought his young boys and together
With rakes and shovels we slapped the fire
Back and made it perfect for the firemen to
Hose water, use walkie-talkies and take
All the credit. But before the big-shots got
There Native looked up from the smoking
Fields and nodded over to me that he well
Remembered doing this 30 years ago with
His uncle when the hill behind our place
Nearly burned over.
Was quite a guy —
A ladies man with four sons.
A college professor who took one
Of his students for his second wife.
A twinkle to his eyes helped swing things
Since he only had one arm, lost as a boy,
But he insisted on manning a chain saw
Where he could, drive stick-shift like a demon,
Play the piano. Now that he has been dead
Ten years I wonder if he ever told me the truth,
Since he was too good to be true. A man whose
House site I cleared and then there were twenty piles
Of brush he wanted burned. I still have my denim
Winter coat that caught on fire by a hot spark.
The book he wrote on Thoreau.
The books I wrote because of Thoreau.
And somewhere in my hands that last time I was
Called over to help him out of his bed, body
Burned away from cancer, and bracing him up
In the bathroom so he could take a leak
We both got a look at one another in that
Awful private mirror.