The Fire Truck

That little rapscallion rapt
in the lexicography of redhead
safety match striking phosphorus-rich
rough-box, sparks in cabin
of the fire truck, marooned
on a firebreak, door opening
out onto stubble—quasi-remains
of harvest-in-progress. The blue barrel
on back—variorum of bath water,
dam water, gush of stand-pipe,
of when he gumbooted the muddied paddock
down there, down low where Dad
said water collects and even the tractor
can’t make its way through in winter.
Next to the esky, stuffed full
with ice-bricks keeping sandwiches
and cake and cool cool drink
ready for when Dad comes in, header-bin full,
all choked up with wheat-stalks so dry
they will cut if you pull at them,
like paper updrafted in the hot wind
creeping in via the open window,
match after match blowing out in the hot wind;
why, why out? Why doesn’t the hot wind
keep it alight, hot and alight?
Outside, over matchstick stubble,
one burns down to thumbskin and forefinger,
a smell that makes “ouch!”,
so in its extinguishment
it casts out, making tomfoolery
of all experiments in the cabin,
an arc of orange rising yellow
and red, scything out, as hot and burning
clamouring up into the truck,
out on to the blue barrel,
cool blue tank all shiny
and hot from the sun,
cover off and the opening
just wide enough to slip into a warm-cool
like pissing in the pool, head out and eyes
tracking the fire chasing the header
through the crop, the header coming about,
like sailing head-on into a wave (he’d done
that with his grandfather
near Africa Reef), his dad calling out
without sound behind the glass,
the truck, the water…turning to smoke,
all smells confused by flames
yelling so loud.

About John Kinsella:
John Kinsella’s most recent volumes of poetry are Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems (W. W. Norton, 2003), Doppler Effect: Collected Experimental Poems (Salt, 2004), and The New Arcadia (W. W. Norton, 2005).