PoetryWinter 22-23

Tongue-Lick of Flame — Mark Simpson

Tongue-Lick of Flame

It’s been a hard summer, one
long exhalation into the pout of heat,
the backhand of drought owing its way
like an insect intent on bad wood,
intent on the heart, sawdust on floor,
sour smell in the air.

The season mumbles along
like the clump-clump of the old cat
going down stairs, each tread-thump
a message of what it’s got, which
is pain in the joints, a slow ache
burning itself out. Like the heat
won’t, and the drought won’t.

A hard year is folding itself spine-wise
like paper, before it bursts into flame.
Get used to the desert of dry limbs.
Get used to the ocean of parched grass.

I walk down the old logging road
and try to become the road itself.
Overhead, no clouds build, just etch
of heat against rinsed blue. Old cat
remembering the pain of the last step.



Mark Simpson lives on Whidbey Island WA. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sleet (Pushcart Prize nominee), Broad River Review (Rash Award Finalist), Columbia Journal (Online), Third Wednesday, Backchannels Review, Flyway, and Cold Mountain Review. He is the author of the chapbook Fat Chance (Finishing Line Press).

The author: Leah VanSyckel