Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Fuel

Winter Fuel


The broken elm
brought down by ice
will make a winter fuel,
cells burnt to ghost-ash
in hearth's fire heart.
Birds sing in his hair no more
only the crackle of demons
whistling the jig of fitful flame.
I gave myself once
to the fire of your touch
a broken trunk, a winter fuel.
 My snapped
lost their smooth skin
as the fire burned in
and the demons laughed
and the ghost-ash fell;
but still 
in the rimed December
of want and desire,
to your thickening ice
I'd rather be fire.


Dead night lengthens,
 cheap lights press upon the sun.
In gaudy December,
want and desire
both need a fire.
Anger is a winter fuel,
fear its dear
disciples: the frost-marrowed bones
whiskey-rage comes to melt,
the sleet of hot bullets
fired at the dark
from behind
a clean shirt of lies,
a mask with no eyes.
The bodies fall
like broken elms
unrelated, remote
stacked on concrete;
winter fuel
that burns cold
as Hel.

~December 2015

This poem took rather opposing directions--I have decided to include both.
The words 'winter fuel' are taken from the carol 'Good King Wenceslas'

Process notes for part II:
"HYDRO, Okla -  A series of shootings along I-40 have resulted in two deaths Thursday morning.
The rampage started near Hydro and ended in Custer County where a suspect was arrested...
Authorities say he targeted one vehicle in a road rage incident, shooting several times at the car. The driver was shot and killed..A few minutes later near Weatherford, officials say the suspect shot at another vehicle, killing a woman. Around 1 a.m., [the shooter] was arrested for driving under the influence..." ~kfor news, oklahoma city

In Norse mythology, Hel was the realm where the dead went to abide with the goddess of the same name, located in Niflheim, a world below of frozen ice and cold.

posted for     real toads

Images: Winter Fuel, © joyannjones, November 2015
Footer: Vehicles at Hydro shooting incident, courtesy No copyright infringement intended.


  1. Hey Joy--wonderful and work well as a pair--they almost read like a sestina, variations on a theme, and such an interesting one, really--I don't know if I can put it into words, exactly, but the theme seems to be the fuel of dearth, what grows from it, burns from it, ignites it--and certainly there's a good, even with the birdsong not there--for the I in the first stanza seems to have found a kind of life, but also those fearful companions in the second stanza--where one feels that the promise of some kind of life and warmth are not sustained, or at least burn out in a terrible spark. Anyway, I'm not describing it well--there are many good lines and great music--whistling the jig of fitful flame possibly my favorite--Thanks for participating and with such food for thought. k.

  2. So different, but with similar bones to be sure. The idea of birds in its hair is so cool, I love that. Who wouldn't rather be fire than ice? As for the second one, i can't fathom how such a thing happens. I wonder if he even remembers what he did, or if he was in a total blackout? A total moral blackout, for sure.

  3. First of all the first poem.. the end is so superb.. This is like a perfect volta, with the broken elm burning contrasting with the coldness of Hel... I cannot really understand the purpose of even running the risk of doing such a thing in road-rage... Cars are dangerous enough without guns...

    1. Indeed they are, and Christmas too. Thanks, Bjorn.

  4. Hey Joy--am coming back because I was a little distracted earlier with getting my own poem up. These are an interesting pair--I am afraid that the process note is almost distracting as it is such a vivid terrible story--I'm not criticizing the process note! Just noting that it is easy for people to get caught up in the story as the last part of the post. So, want to get back to the poems--the first is so interesting as the broken elm is really very benign and its fire, and then when it moves to the love the human part--it changes so dramatically--for the snapped arms have a very different feel there, and although the fire is a kind of life's blood the conflict of the second poem is already present--the difficulty of human interactions in a cold/hot place. Then the second poem feels like a move along the spectrum--the sleet of bullets--agh--and the limbs firewood stacked on concrete, which is no place even for firewood--here it feels like the ice has taken control again, in a most lamentable way. Thanks. k.

    1. Well, I want readers to get caught up in the story because I think without it, there is no context--but maybe it isn't needed. Still, that was what was in my mind as I wrote, and I thought it was necessary to really 'get' what I was driving at. The first part I really feel is almost independent of the second, but I felt there was a connection, as they echo mood as well as words and phrases and it seemed natural they should stay together.Thanks for your comments and thoughts, as always, k, and thanks for the challenge as well. I certainly never would have written either of these without it.

  5. I like this, using the accidents and tragedy--the weather even--for poetry. The contrasts are so strong--whiskey, ice, fire--Great winter poem.

    1. 'Accident' is an interesting word choice for the shooting spree--was it all accidental--that is, all the components on hand set off by something random? In one sense, yes--that one split second where a moment of frustration lit the fuse as some other person's driving assumed huge proportions to a drunken mind. If that first driver had not cut the shooter off(or whatever driving sin he committed) the pot might have kept simmering without ever boiling over. Or was it more the inevitable conclusion to be expected when someone stressed by the pressure of these phony holidays and his own messed-up life, has a gun in his glove compartment, just ready to finally 'get even' and announce to the world how he doesn't give a fuck any more? I'm inclined to think, some of both. Thanks, as always, for reading.

  6. I immediately was captured by your fire and ice motive, which created such a firm base for the first movement, with talk of passion, and its effects over time. The transition into the second movement is well handled as the tone deepens to something more sinister. Your process notes provided a context, but the sense of dark things abroad in the dead of winter was strongly felt.
    Senseless violence is an ever-present facet of humanity, perhaps our truest face, despite the socialization of the past thousand years. It's not been time enough to still the barbarian blood.

    1. Thank you Kerry. Agree--we have come so far, and yet remain so much less than we need to be as well.

  7. I love both of these so much, their tone and feel, wonderfully transmitted.

  8. This is so powerful, Hedge. Smooth skin surface with the blood bubbling underneath. I truly wish that I had written this.

  9. Odd but oddly true pairing -- both take a snow-wraith's mind to read, but so it goes when the year is deep in Hel. (No way to beat the cold.) The vantage is so opposed in the two--the first a surrender, the second a sundering--but winter fuel burns in both. Or bournes, in opposite ways. Fire survives ice in the first, burns in the enraged liver in the second; passion is a different thing in this season of age ... And fuels the young perhaps most wickedly. Asshole ... Wonder if road rage is going to become an assault-weapon thing, this season of big fear ..."Road Warrior," chains on the tires ... Fiercely wrought, Hedge.

    1. I think you can surrender to your demons as well as your angels--and today we read of another young woman in Las Vegas who drove her car into a crowd on the sidewalk to see how many she could kill, because of 'a dysfunction in her relationship with her child's father,' as the spokes-cop so delicately put it--I don't think people are any different than they ever were, but the tools of death are accessible to all now, tempting every minute with their glorious potential to make someone else feel worse than you do...anyway, thanks for your thoughts and time, B, and a happier solstice to the rest of us.

  10. Both of these are so powerful. "Birds sing in his hair no more only the crackle of demons
    whistling the jig of fitful flame." I love the human element you gave to the elm in the first one. The second one evokes the horror of mad man with a gun. Your words speak of the insanity that travels among us. We never know its next target.

  11. Anger IS a winter fuel. Indeed.

  12. Reading it without knowing anything about your process, I was taken by the kind of disjointed rage-like energy of the poem! You described this so well with device and content!

  13. I just get a sense that each part of this pair is a brother ewer hewn from the same trunk, so each pours the same fire, if in different forms. I'm taken by the the voice shift, to the personal ("I", "my") - like a stem connecting this two-cupped chalice, taking the reader into the heart of the burn - how else can we react when we read the word "I"? ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats