The first spark of Pete Mackey’s poem Mourning appeared one evening as he was cleaning out his fireplace—a nightly ritual in Massachusetts winters—as January turned to February. In Pete’s words, what suddenly arose from the ashes there was ‘a connection between grief and love, life and fire, that loving can mean the pain of mourning but also knowing it is possible to honor, not fear or futilely try to purge, what remains part of us.’
I try to shovel the firebox clean
long after its cooled, stubbornly sweeping
the bristle brush from firebox to hearth
extension and back again. But layers
of ashes irremovable cling to surfaces
and crevices in brick and mortar, sunken
with use surround to surround, destined
to mark these places as long as this house
shall stand. So be it. Accept the shadow,
then every shade of autumn awe
until the falling axe. Whether wood
or otherwise, life that burns will not
surrender after the spark, the light,
the warmth. We bear what lasts of fire.
Pete Mackey’s poetry has been published in such places as Connotation Press, Cumberland River Review, New Verse News, Innisfree, and Global Poemic; and has been published as a finalist in poetry contests by Sweet, Third Wednesday, and others. He has published numerous essays and articles, as well as the book Chaos Theory and James Joyce’s Everyman (UP of Florida). He founded and leads a communications company that serves colleges, universities, and other non-profits across the U.S. He lives in Amherst, MA with his wife and family.