Andrew C. Gottlieb


Orphaned again, every night
we come to the bonfire
on the beach,
eager to ring the fire
in, turning out clouds and rain,
the long face of an early winter.
Around us, the sky flings
its arrogant weather
like a dress,
hiding the horizon's
low islands with its hem
the same way
we ostracize our losses
by turning our backs
and knotting our fingers
around a dance of spark
and flame, our altar of light
and loss. We throw our bones
on the coals. We clutch
at combustion and wait all night
for the grey remains.
We carry it all home, carry it
forever: the weather,
the ring, the light, the damp ashes
we bring with us everywhere,
carrying them in our mouths
for the sooty taste
of every thing that burns
and stays.


The Orphan's Wake is part of a series of poem 'trades' I've had the luck to write with poet friends Betsy Aoki and Derek Sheffield. We have taken turns writing, inspired and urged on by our previous poems. This part of the series comes from a rainy evening at a large bonfire on the Golden Gardens beach just west of Ballard in Seattle, the best place to spend a lazy Seattle summer evening while talking, barbecuing, burning wood, watching the boat traffic, and staring over Puget Sound at the Olympic mountains, whatever the evening's weather.