Fire by Steve May

This poem captures the sadness of feeling as if you have to maintain that ‘stiff upper lip’ and keep everything locked inside yourself. We are very lucky if we have never had to witness the effects and cruelties of war first hand and can never really imagine what it is like for those who have. This poem does not attempt to appropriate, or put words into the survivor’s mouth while acknowledging these painful realities. – Jane Burn, guest editor.


He never talked about the war; just kept
the home fire blazing and glowing,
on those flickering long winter afternoons,
in the tiny cottage full of polished brass.

He kept the fire burning, adding logs, twigs
and small lumps of coal, spitting and crackling;
poking, patiently coaxing, till the flames flared,
shooting stuttered shadows across the dimming room.

That was all we needed to see. No medals
on show; just the slow, patient prodding of coals,
into a blaze of furious flame and angry splutter,
until it settled into a silent glow.

Never a word about the war; but we saw
the horror in his silent deep distraction,
as he gazed into the dying embers
at the fag-end of the day.

Steve May

Born in Coventry, Steve May worked extensively in drama-in-education, including winning an Edinburgh Fringe First with Wigan Young People’s Theatre and leading a Performing Arts Department at Sunderland College. He regularly performs his work around the NE of England and further afield. He has had poems and stories published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Writers’ Café, Wellington Street Review, Gentian, Sonder, Earlyworks, Federation of Writers (Scotland) Anthology, Vita Brevis and Prole. He won the 2019 Shelter Poems for Home Competition,; was runner-up and also commended in the Prole 2019 Poetry Competition and shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award 2019.

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