by Mary Armstrong
2011, 23 pages
we burn the sediment - a crust of oil
lines the pit behind the Hoffman Well.
Smoke sends the stench of sulfer
the woods, clouds windows
of the Hoffman's house, and drops a mist of ash
the wide eyes of a wooden
cow, staked in front yard grass.
watches from her porch,
one hand across her mouth, the other
at her heart.
We keep our distance
from the flame, let it have its way
with what has hardened
in the pit.
In the swift exchange from heat to blaze,
a burning harvest
mouse runs circles in the
wild grass until it is more fire than mouse.
it falls into the last glow of flame,
one of us stamps what is left into the
Bees rise like sparks from yellow grass.
The Hoffman's dog pulls
at his chain.
Old dog, there's nothing you can do
but stand the smoke and
wait, like us,
incidental now to what we've set, waiting
for the end of
this SHP Title
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or fax it to
to "Burn Pit"
As read by the author,
Armstrong is a native of Los Angeles, where she serves as the financial officer
of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival. She previously served as co-director of the
Valley Contemporary Poets Series. Her poems have appeared in more than 30 literary
journals, including The Missouri Review, Nimrod, The Burnside Review, and
The Potomac Review, and in the anthologies Grand Passion: The Poets
of Los Angeles and Beyond and Open Windows. She has been a finalist
in numerous poetry contests, including Ireland's Strokestown International Poetry
Prize. She is president of an independent oil and gas production company and lives
in West Hills, California, with her husband.