Doug Ramspeck: “Wood Smoke”


“Gone is gone,” my father liked to say, the dead of little more concern to him than the maple beyond our fence twisting into scoliosis. So when his brother died, we skipped the funeral and he took me hunting in our woods, where the crows we shot dropped from the high limbs to make an offering to earth. I believed, then, in the consciousness in things, in the tall grass and the magus moon floating in its sea, in the smell of wood smoke rising from our chimney beneath the Escanaba clouds. Our neighbors kept an abandoned kiln in their backyard, the broken pottery scattered everywhere like bones, and my father told me that the man who used to live there spent all his hours with his hands working clay, to little end, for when he died no one wanted what he’d made. From the windows of our house, we watched smoke rising from the kiln that the neighbors used now for burning trash. And the winter we buried my father in the cemetery, I dreamed he drifted skyward with the smoke from next door and became a flock of primitive birds, beautiful with forgetfulness, making a sorrowful frenzy above the river.

Doug Ramspeck is the author of six poetry collections and one collection of short stories. His most recent book, Black Flowers, is published by LSU Press. Four books have received awards: The Owl That Carries Us Away (G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction), Original Bodies (Michael Waters Poetry Prize), Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize for Poetry). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Slate, and Georgia Review. A two-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, Ramspeck is an associate professor at The Ohio State University at Lima.

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