Fire in the Boneyard

Paul Ilechko


Family history is a vast boneyard    populated with shadows

that are cast by memories of memories             it’s a hot land

and sometimes the lake catches fire       and then it will burn

for a day or two        during which time        people will camp

out in the park     and watch the flames as they change color

from blue       to green       and back to a deeper purple       as

the oxidation is burned away


they carry banners           with photographs of themselves as

saints    or as villains    and sing old songs     songs that have

not been heard for centuries                 they speak a language

between themselves that they all seem to understand      but

which is meaningless to us      the living      (of course      it is

understandable  that  they   would   not   feel   any   need   to

accommodate such a small minority)


on those few occasions that we visit      we keep to ourselves

and enjoy the color and imagery that is fabricated by the

reflections of the blaze    letting the heat from the fire warm

us to the depths of our own bones       watching the shapes

that the smoke makes      as it curls its way      back through

the layers of time     to the earliest generations that we have

managed to discover.


Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, West Trade Review, Yes Poetry, Otoliths and Indicia. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.