Danger Sensed

Strange wood,
there is a craving in the way it burns;
the tempo of the flame is much too high,
the watcher has no peace.

There was no bark on these three logs, all oak.
How long had the old tree lain dead?
What killed it in these woods
where nearly all the trees are oak?

I have never heard
wood explode so as it burns.
There is an urgent, underlying hiss,
and why these angry bullets of escaping air,
these sudden fireworks of driven sparks?

Never have I been so glad
the fireplace is deep and sound,
never been so glad the draft is good,
the damper recently unclogged.

The andirons support this rage,
can take the heat,
do not abandon what their training
has prepared them now to understand.

Nevertheless, I do not feel
I could walk away,
enjoy the fire from my reading lamp,
immersed in thought and all the comfort
a winter’s fire brings.

No, I stay here, crouched
on this old low bench, my spirit sympathizing
with the fire’s need to burst, my eyes watchful
for a danger my hands may have to thwart.