This Fire: Poetry by Pen Pearson, Stuart Witt and Charlotte Mew

Remember when every newspaper and magazine published poetry? Let’s get poetry out of its corner, and back into our daily life. Anyway, we’re giving it a try.

Stuart Witt is a poet and retired math teacher. Charlotte Mew was a great but little-known English poet of the late 19th century. Pen Pearson teaches writing and literature at Northern State University and is the author of Bloomsbury’s Late Rose, a novel about Charlotte Mew, which Chickadee Prince Books will publish in Fall 2019.



This Fire (by Pen Pearson)


She says, I’m just a firefighter working for the U.S. Forest Service.

She says, I’m just a woman trying to make a living doing her job.

She says, I’m just a person who’s got her co-workers’ backs when fire rages.


I’ll tell you about other women like her.


They wake naked on sheet-less beds, disoriented and ashamed.

They wake with bruises on their bodies, tattoos on their minds.


If they report the abuse, they’re demoted and threatened.

They’re told: Don’t be “one of those girls,” which they know means “bitch.”


What happens to their drinking buddies, their peerless firefighters

who say, If women can’t take the heat, they should go back to the kitchen?


They must think it’s a man’s job we’re trying to do.


We say:


Why grope our breasts and crotches, call us names and harass us?

Why not prove we can’t do the job based on the job, not our sex?


Don’t write QUIT in the soot on our cars when we file a report.

Don’t leave pornography in the driver’s seat for us to find.

Don’t call us “one of those girls,” which we know means “ballbreaker.”


Even now, smell kindling catch fire. Hear the flames’ whispers

transmogrify to rattled breath, witches cackling over spoils.

Feel the fire’s heart rage out of control, explode with fury.


See flames tower above skyscraping redwoods and blackening smoke

lay down on and strangle the air. Sense oxygen emptying your lungs,

your own life give birth to an anonymous, amorphous monster


whose tyrannical power sears you. Know we’re here to fight fire with water,

with dust, with fire itself, and with our comrades, women and men,

an armed front attacking this wall with ungloved hands, mouths uncovered.


We’re here to fight fire with words, with our words against his words

when necessary. We’re here to walk through the fire’s center and come out alive—

fierce shoots of cedar saplings engendered by this fire’s ash.

Design by Steven S. Drachman from an image by Alexas Fotos/Pixabay