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Kindled


Kindled
By Mack W. Mani

1.

I think of my father as a hunter
though he mostly made
traps for the other men
and skinned the hides
they would bring out of the forest.

To see him relaxed or at ease,
smoking or smiling, was rare,
even now in my dreams
he stands below the rack
deftly sliding his boning knife,
arms bloodstained to the elbow.

He was kind but distant,
and always knew what
we were thinking;
he was gentle,
even when the fire touched me
he did not raise his voice.

My mother was kind and present,
a healer and self proclaimed
(always with a smile)
conjure woman;
she made things for the other villagers,
salves and poultice, reduced their fevers
and eased the pain of the dying.

She could call the grass by its name
and it would part before her,
the grasshoppers leaping
from the spaces in between.

She would take my sister and I
with her when she gathered,
showing us each root and herb,
revealing its purpose
mallow, yarrow, and lavender.


2.

At night the whole village
would gather around the goodfire
(sometimes my father too,
but always apart from the rest,
their thoughts too loud
he would always say)
and we would all tell stories,
about the goats and chickens
or how the stars got in the sky.

But each night always
ended with the same tale,
told by the eldest among us,
a horror story and a true one,
one that never changed:

Somewhere out there in the night,
beyond the woods that bordered us,
a war was waging.

One with no victory or purpose
fought with weapons unimaginable:
poison air that burned men's lungs
great beasts that consumed
both sides equally,
walking nightmares that drove
men mad at the sight of them.

And they told us how
the soldiers that had come,
how their bodies,
lined with dark and glistening machines
had resembled great gunmetal skeletons,
how they had taken everything
from our parents,
would have taken their lives
had they not fled,
past barbed wire fences
and wired sentry forests here,
to the edge of extinction.

But we were not like them,
they said.

We were not the attackers
or the attacked,
we were something new,
something special,
a flame to be kindled.

* * *

Mack W. Mani is an American poet and author; his work has appeared in various literary magazines including Neon, NewMyths, and The Pedestal Magazine. He currently lives in Portland OR. Visit him at MackWMani.com

What advice do you have for other poets?

Experiment. People will tell you that a poem has to be this and a short story has to be that, but no one can tell you what to create. Don’t abandon a project because it is too dark, goofy, or over the top, there is a home for every kind of art.

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