Howard’s Mill Burns

Turns out the fire got it all. Not much insurance. Not enough
to start over. Howard’s workshop gone, the crowded
bench, scattered with wrenches, mismatched parts.

His son-in-law comes, helps him sort through the mess,
set aside what might still be of use. In the end
Howard knocks it down to keep trespassers out. In the spring

he’ll set it on fire again, then bury what’s left.  Now
half the roof  sprawls wide, an upside down V, 
with shingles crooked and missing.  A metal desk

with its one drawer closed, squats on its top.
Peeking out from underneath—the white door 
that never hung straight, always caught as you tried

to enter. All of it like some giant broken nest, taunting me, 
a dark scar on the snow. Scraps entangled with the bare arms 
of bushes. Gossip has it that faulty wiring caused the blaze, 

some jury-rigged circuitry. Howard was known for that, 
piecing together odds and ends, making do—sloppy but functional.
Now nothing will replace it. He’s taken to standing in the roadway

looking at the charred planks. At eighty-five he remembers when
it was a working mill. The stringent smell of sawdust, the whir of the blades, 
like a coat he once wore. Tattered now. Nothing that will keep him warm.

Third Wednesday
Spring  2018