On dogs of tarnished brass you laid our fire—
lightwood and oak piled over paper. You’d spent
all morning splitting logs; in your torn red shirt
you sharpened wedges, swung the maul higher,
drove the steel true to the grain. It requires
precision to split a storm-felled tree spilt
across the yard. Wood stacked, one match sent
it up the flue, the flames roaring, a blooming pyre.
Fingers of branches meshed and twisted red, curved,
sifted to coals. I held your hand, traced each finger,
outlined the hours, years, callused and hardened.
Now swifts nest in the chimney and I learn
the habit of chill in my empty house. What lingers
is gray ash cast across my winter garden.
(A version of this sonnet was published in Tar River Review)
Nora Hutton Shepard
Nora Hutton Shepard is a poet and alumna of N.C. State’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program, as well a graduate of the MFA Writer’s Program at Warren Wilson College. She taught poetry courses at N.C. State before relocating to Davidson in 2019 to be closer to her daughter’s family. Nora has quickly acclimated to life in Davidson and is a wonderful addition to our Community.