after the Great Fire of 1894 in Phillips, Wisconsin
Heat trembled in cords of hemlock bark
wind raked air to stir a lick and
crack and flames broke out
in Tannery-town, plucked up
homes so quick families
fled without a plate or quilt
to huddle by the lake.
Sweet treble in rootstock-dark,
sound woke the ear, a stab of lilt and
cry and Frieda was born
in a root cellar and cupped
to Otillia’s milk-quick breast.
unfledged, without a pelt
or words for once or flame.
Sue Chenette grew up in northern Wisconsin and has lived in Toronto since 1972. Her most recent books are Clavier, Paris, Alyssum (Aeolus House, 2020), and the documentary poem What We Said (Motes Books, 2019), based on her time as a social worker in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.