Saturday, April 16, 2022




Time is a wildfire loose in the willows
burning soft-stemmed boughs to hissing smoke.
Their weeping won't save them, or their green hearts,
nor the pleading of oxen, burnt out of their yokes.

It runs its red leg 'cross the suck of the slough
to harvest sheep's breath in its ragged pillows,
to garland the branch with burnt black buds.
Time is a wildfire loose in the willows.

Time races, time flies, time burns the bridges.
It eats church and saloon out of house and hope.
It's tongue licks the moonlight off the moon's mirror
and boils rainy hours to hissing smoke.

Time is a fire, time is a melting
that feeds on the whole and ashes the parts.
Time burns up May-brides into sere widows;
their weeping won't save them, or their green hearts.

And when black-cloud crows show to pick my bones
I'll say come, children come, and don't come slow.
Time's a quick flame, and we are its smoke.
Time was my harness; I'm soon out of its yoke.

April 2022

 posted for Fireblossom 
at The Sunday Muse:
Note: This poem is in the cascade form(with a few liberties,) which I felt fit in with Housman's general style, tho since it has been invented since his time, of course he never used it.
Images; Landscape Of Ruins And Fires, 1914 © Felix Valloton, manipulated   Public Domain
Wheatfield With Crows, 1890. © Vincent Van Gogh  manipulated,     Public Domain


  1. Oh Joy, this gathers power as it goes, and leaves this reader nodding with recognition and breathless from the vivid descriptions. I especially love the mirror line and the "green hearts" that won't save them--layers of meaning in that simple phrase. I believe that Housman himself would be an admirer of what you've done here, as this poem encompasses so many of the themes he often wrote about, and it contains the same elegance as well. Gorgeous, thoughtful stuff that brings one up short with its urgent message delivered in the final stanza. I love this.

  2. The cascade form (with a few Joyful liberties) works beautifully here. 'time's a quick flame, and we are its smoke' an unbelievably potent line.

  3. Wowzers! The rhythm and rhyme build like a galloping horse. Wonderful. My fave line is "time is a wildfire loose in the willows."

  4. Joy, I thought the first line would be my favorite, but then I got to the last line! I mean, the whole piece is really powerful, and your imagery blows me away - but that ending? Just - WOW!

    David [ben Alexander]

  5. I can speak neither to cascade form or to Houseman, who is not on my reading list, but the poem itself & its cascading handles of fire passed to fire in time's running ruin. Though Fire is a natural presence whose agency is managed by the forest (it cleans the sere & fallen & assists in reseeding), Time is not, so this fire told in natural terms bears human witness, fretful eye on the clock. We who stole it are neither cleaned nor brightened much by fire, though we sure can wield and run like the dickens from it in the name of Time. Maybe fire is mind itself, "a melting / that feeds on the whole and ashes the parts." All the adages cascading so elegantly here add up to that wizened (witchy?) perspective that can read it for what it is with the relief of one soon to be done with it. The last two lines carry us all the way from beginning to end. A scorched Easter egg laid in a happily resurrected Faberge basket of poesy. Amen.

    1. Thanks, B. I'm pleased the relief comes through. Yes, the fire of human time is in general not the renewal that fire in nature can be, and yet, perhaps it does crack a few seeds from the soil it scorches. Cascade form seemed to suit that theme, as it repeats the first stanza line by line as the end lines of all the others, giving a feeling of things repeating themselves, yet also in some ways resolving. As always with my little "corsets" I have unlaced it a bit here to try to add meaning and content. Thanks again for your always thoughtful input.

  6. This took my breath away.
    "Time's a quick flame, and we are its smoke."

  7. Time's inevitable heartless inescapable onslaught wonderfully imaged and expressed.

  8. Holy crap, that is amazing!!! Flawlessly executed, and the fire you light in that first terrific line burns through field and farm, city and home, and then illuminates the eternal questions before reducing them to ash. I'm no reader of Houseman, but this reads like it would pass muster with him. Brava.

  9. This cascade poem is a bright light of wisdom here Joy! You have made us see what we already know is such a deeper and burning way! Time is illusive yet alarms us by the sounding of the clock. I love all the imagery you have used. Your poetry always is a delight to the senses and I always want to read your poems over and over again!

  10. your wise woman persona - with the multiples of 'wise' fully evident - shines ever so brightly here. yes, wise, sardonic, clear-eyed despite the smoke ~

    1. Thanks, M. More of a wise-ass, usually, I'm afraid. You have been writing over the moon this month.

  11. "It's tongue licks the moonlight off the moon's mirror
    and boils rainy hours to hissing smoke."

    Such a powerful, well-detailed poem, Joy. Amazing writing.

  12. this is spectacular Joy. the repetition in this perfectly executed, and the way it moves from the perspective of the viewer to encompass the viewer, moves like fire, moves like life and death, thats just brilliant, i dodn't know if the cascade style is part of that repetition, but you match the context of the poem to it perfectly... well done

    1. Thanks so much Phillip. So good to see you here! I know you're not a form man, so doubly appreciated.

  13. Just wonderful. I love how you mix up the senses and these lines especially:

    "It's tongue licks the moonlight off the moon's mirror
    and boils rainy hours to hissing smoke."


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

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