Nathan Lipps

Controlled Burn

To the north
they have set fire
to a thousand acres
of a very real forest
to prevent future fires.

Walking through the ash
it makes sense to him
the many ways
we handle a decadence
not our own.

The trees survive, of course
their bark seared
but intact
the ground charred and gray
with the exhalation of hope.

It makes sense to him
burning down the fear
before the greater pain sets in
singing praise in a cloud of smoke
watching the animals flee.

Dipping For Osmeridae, Upper Peninsula Michigan 1988

They make a fire
along the riverbank
to keep their hands warm
and for something to do.

Wading out to their knees
they dip for smelt.
Their long nets straining
with moving gems.
Enough to fill a bucket each.

The smoke from the fire
rolls beneath their bodies
and will live within
those heavy coats for months.

Later they’ll dump the buckets into a truck
and go back for another wading out deeper
dipping the net again and again
until it becomes fruitless

and the trucks depart
and the embers cool
until some wind
makes a god of them.

Nathan Lipps is the author of the chapbook the body as passage. His work has appeared in Best New Poets, Colorado Review, EcoTheo Review, North American Review, TYPO, and Third Coast. He currently works as an assistant professor at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Read more at his website.

Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #41.

Submit to Cleaver!

Cleaver Magazine