Poem of the Week: “Backfires” by Fleda Brown

Join us Wednesday, November 6 as Fleda Brown closes out our Fall Writing Series.


The woods are on fire.

The woods are seething and blistering.

Matisse, stuck in his wheelchair, is scissoring shapes,

directing his assistant to pin them to a board.

Beethoven is solving musical problems inside the soundless

chamber of his head. Elizabeth Bishop is sitting in the waiting room

studying naked women with her poised intellect. She cries out.

Oh no. It’s not her, but from the other room.

The wildfire of her heart is about to cross the gap cut by the firemen.

A small backfire has been set near the bigger one to use up

the oxygen that fuels it. You have to know where

the bigger one is headed. You do not know where

the bigger one is headed, so it is always the backfires.

Even the water in the hoses can catch fire.

The fire is not really in the water, but the water gets drunk up.

If you were on fire I would roll you in a blanket as I have been told.

There is a cardinal out there against the snow! Such a cliché,

but a dramatic example of the tiny backfire that keeps us

from burning alive.

From The Woods Are On Fire: New and Selected Poems Copyright © 2017 by Fleda Brown.

Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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