Stephen Barile

Ancient Campfires

“Everything has a fixed mother.” Lucretius

Universal Symphony by George Copeland Ault

Outside beyond the back porch
And ringer-washer, up the hill
Where the tent-cabins and outhouse stood
For many seasons, a steep climb
Among Ponderosa pine,

Granite outcroppings
Of quartz crystals, and feldspar,
Brushwood of green-manzanita
Battered by four seasons
Of natural order.

Through shrubs that live only
For raging chaparral fire
Turning weighty branches to ash,
Sprouting smooth redbark,

White-vase flowers in clusters.
Patches of old snow
Linger in spring shadows
Where deer families nested
Late fall when we weren’t here.

Columbine flowers are lonely outposts
Where fallen trees decay and vanish.

A chickaree dashes up a cedar tree
At the arrival of an intruder.

A woodpecker taps a distant tree
Fixed between two creeks.

The mountain drops off
To Bear Creek, a vertical cut
Of multi-colored rocks
And large boulders escarped
From higher elevations.

Ground levels off
To a gentle knoll of grasses
In shade of Incense Cedars
And young Jeffrey pines.

Up here the air is thin and crisp,
With a chill in the shade,
And warmth in sunlight.

What appears to be real is actually real:

Bare ground, singed and flecked
With charcoal,
Dark spots of burnt-earth
Like Obsidian,
Indicate ancient campfires

Of the Entimbich Nim,
The in-between tribe
Who occupied this place
Until the first snows.

If weather could be changed
By the simple act of asking,

They would have never left
To chase away the ghosts

Dwelling in the trees,
Animals, insects and birds.

Or return to their winter home,
The western slope of Burrough Mountain,
In the Sycamore Creek watershed.

Dark, round-faced men in rabbit-skin,
Arms banded in eagle feathers
Danced a Buzzard song of migration.

The song carried their thoughts
In six directions,
Until they stopped singing
Altogether and vanished.


About the writer:
Stephen Barile lives in Fresno California. He is a long-time member of the Fresno Poet’s Association. Barile’s poems have been published extensively in several print and online publications.

Image: Universal Symphony by George Copeland Ault (1891-1948). Oil on canvas. 30 x 24 inches. 1947. Public domain.