This poem, written by Harvest of Fire editor
George Ella Lyon, is not included in the collection.
It is offered here because of its related interest, a
way of illuminating the connection between Lyon
and her friend and colleague Lee Howard, whose
work this book anthologizes.


The last time I saw you
you were wearing a red dress.
Now, Lee, in the twenty-plus
years of our friendship,
I have never known you
to wear any dress, much less red.
And that coffin—what kind
of prank was that?

I wanted to say
C’mon, Bear, get up!
Put on your jeans
and turtleneck
and let’s go walk the mountain.
It’s April
and everybody in this bunch
is planning to go to the cemetery.

We need to head out
where the poems are.
Don’t let yourself be carried away
by all this grief
wearing that red dress
you’d never be caught dead in.

George Ella Lyon
This is the title poem from the Harvest of Fire collection. It was
penned by Lee Howard in the last years of her life.

Harvest of Fire

I remember staring through a January window
My chin resting on the sill
My brother gone to school
My father gone to army
My mother gone to sleep
and I am too young to go
The house is perfectly silent
and dusky in the weak winter light
I see red snow bleeding
near the road
where cinders have been sowed
in hopes of harvesting fire
to melt the ice beneath the tires

Nearer at hand,
Old, gray snow in the yard
is pock-marked with footprints,
brown grass sprouting
like three-day beard
where we had walked
My brother’s snowman,
decked out in worn green fatigues
and my dwarf snow-something
guard the far corners of the yard

I fix my eyes on the snow angel
frozen in the middle distance
and imagine wings thawed
and attached to my shoulders
I fly to summer
Warm sun on my back
squatting next to creek
cupping my hand
in water
where it flows over rock

Five decades have passed
and I watch through a January window
gray water wrung from Portland skies
The house is dark and quiet
except for the rhythmic pinging
of the raindrop
hitting the chimney flue
The massive fir across the street
dwarfs my neighbor’s blue house,
and sways like a believer
entranced in the Spirit
My spirit is blue and silent
as the snow laying a foot deep
across, my mother tells me,
the Cumberland Plateau
If only time would turn to water
and I could walk creekside
back to when my family was in full-bloom
I could pick a bouquet of aunties
and another one of uncles,
a handful of mamaws and papaws
Cousins scattered around like Black-eyed Susans,
brothers hid in delicate Jack-in-the-Pulpits,
a father bold and treacherous
as Morning Glory,
still smelling like a rose

I plow this ground of lonely being
and turn up volunteer fear
roots sunk into the middle of my earth
I dig with my fingers,
not pausing for a hoe,
and get nothing but anger
crammed under my nails
I hitch the singletree to my shoulders
lay out furrows amid tenaciously intact roots
I sow the ground with sorrow
and wait until Spring

Lee Howard
Two poems
by and about
Lee Howard ...
(c) 2010
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