The fire burns each morning in the garden

the neighbours talk, share coffee and bread

Collecting so much firewood is a feat

performed by the unflagging Gillian

who at the wheel of a powerful ute

combs the suburbs for discarded wood

Liz from upstairs brings few supplies

says she lives in the sky, but she spots

occasional fuel nearby and sends news,

later might help to stack the sliced pallets

It’s Gillian who collects and chops

then lights a blaze under the fading stars

They never stint to throw on more wood

and give thanks to the sun, to fabulous fire


Covid divertimento

firesticks with legs

During Covid lockdown I found an online course about poetry in Spanish. Elena Preciado, the teacher based in Mexico, talked about poetic styles from the Spanish Golden Age to modern song. One of the latter would perhaps suit the English ballad form, its story being a night-long search for a cigarette.

Elena also taught us the tricks and subtleties of counting syllables in a line. She would give us homework, at first it was simple stuff, like write four or eight lines of x number of syllables. Then she asked us to write a sonnet. That was fourteen lines of eleven syllables. A big ask, I thought! Anyway, long story short, I wrote one, yes, in Spanish.

I showed it to a local Mexican poet who told me that certain of my rhymes didn’t work, and that the syllable count was sometimes wrong. I made an English version of the sonnet, then tried my hand at an Italian adaptation. This was reviewed by my Italian teacher Vittoria Pasquini and my fellow students in her long-standing “gruppo de venerdì”.

Finally Elena got back to me with her critique and suggestions, and yes, problems with syllable count and rhyme! Then she added, I have a present for you. These were translations of the sonnet into French and Portuguese. I couldn’t believe it, my poem Firesticks exists in five languages! I now call the sonnet “firesticks with legs”.