Building a fire

My mother is kneeling by the hearth
tearing strips from the West Briton
rolling them round her fingers.

I see the Penroses had their Silver Wedding.
She lays the twisted paper criss-cross in the grate,
newspaper ink smudges her hands.

Their son-in-law paid for it. He’s just had promotion.
Settles the kindling lattice-like on top of the paper.
They’re doing very well. Shakes the coal scuttle.

Two grandchildren now. Picks out lumps of coal
with long-handled tongs, places them on the sticks
allowing space for the air to draw.

Their youngest daughter just got engaged.
Pushes open a matchbox, prepares to ignite.
How many men have you slept with?

Lights a match, sets flame to paper.
One, I lie to the back of her head.
There’s coal dust on her face.

Men don’t like soiled goods. Fire snatches
at the kindling, hisses and smokes. She rocks
back onto her heels, brushes down her apron.



Anne Symons: After a career teaching deaf children and adults Anne began writing poetry in retirement. Her work has been published in Orbis, Obsessed with Pipework, Ekphrastic Review, Agenda, Poetry Salzburg Reivew and The Atlanta Review. She is currently studying for an MA in Writing Poetry with Newcastle University and the Poetry School, London.