Monday, December 12, 2016

the fireman hero

The Volunteer State

I shake his hand
murmur appreciation and thanks,
listen to fragments of the story
he and his buddies lived,
that Monday 12 days ago
when flames roar out of the sky
and blossom into awful malignancies of flame,
a small fire within moments fanned large,
a tree blocks the road:
a winch, a chainsaw, brute strength,
barely enough to get away 
from tongues of fire reaching at them,

he came back this afternoon
to see the day that dawned after that awful night,
our house was his charge,
flames sprang up and he fought them,
he wet down the entire house
and battled the fire as it sought our neighbors’ homes,
the water ran out, the hydrants wrung dry,
he had a new volunteer fireman with him,
and he made him stay close,
he didn’t want to lose a house,
but he hated the thought of losing one of the team,
he kept repeating that he individually wanted no thanks,
for it was the collective
that summed the parts into an effective whole,

I’m proud of my Volunteer state:
even before we were a country,
East Tennessee men felt the call
and walked to King’s Mountain in South Carolina
to repel the British threat they felt
could come at their homes and family,

I have driven and walked the woods
in hopes of understanding what the fire wrought
less than two weeks ago,
I have driven and walked the town
and felt loss and sorrow at the destruction,
and the grace that chance and effort allowed also,
including our cabin, and all that endured,

everyone I’ve talked to, who were here at that time,
lived a selfless nobility that leaves me in awe,
thought maybe it was not “selfless,”
but that value that keeps eluding us as a country,
a definition of “self” that enlarges us
to know we are not alone,
if we choose to see ourselves as small,
we can be very alone,

the volunteer fireman who found us today,
and who shared his story,
lived that larger self well.

by Henry H. Walker

December 10, ’16

No comments: