Green Hills Literary Lantern



Revisiting Cabin Site Half a Century After the Forest Fire



Mountains prop up the afternoon sky

as I walk the fret-edge of timber, stalked by

familiar longing that gathers sentiment to itself

the way carded wool fibers grab and hold their own.


Imagined whiffs of lanolin and sheep manure swirl

into the clean scents of sage and green grass

hinting at the phantom-sound of a thousand

bleating ewes and the bellwethers’ toll.


New growth obliterates history.                            

No sheep in sight.                                      

No trace of the outhouse.

No sign of the hillside of sawdust from the sawmill.


The old springhouse that evaded capricious flames

still leans into willows

though rot has gnawed the plank where I knelt

as a girl to settle bottled milk or watermelon


in among stones in the cold creek.

I used to linger amid coolness

to watch water bugs skim the surface

as if testing Biblical mystery.


At last I locate the rectangle of ground that held the cabin,

its four quartz cornerstones identifying place.

Logs of air still emit ephemera of bonds

they have released for fifty years since they crackled to ash.


Through the center of a rusted bed-frame,

a sizable pine rises,  its trunk wedged

by the force of  growth tight among the few iron springs

still dangling from a solid rim.


Art deco spirals design a chunk

of the cast iron Franklin stove 

that contained its flames to warm the room.

I pick up amorphous forms of glass


made molten again by the blaze,

pine needles captured inside like bugs in amber.

A broken shard of grandma’s blue ceramic bowl

recalls her yeasted nourishing.


Purged ground is fertile

as it always was.

Timber thrives in it.

Walls of wind disperse the scent of pinesap.






Maureen Tolman Flannery is a Wyoming sheep rancher’s daughter who lives in Chicago where she is an English teacher, wood carver and home funeral guide.  More than five hundred of her poems have been published in anthologies, journals, literary reviews, and on-line publications, among them: North American Review, Xavier Review, Winning Writers, BorderSenses,  Wisconsin Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Calyx, Pedestal, Poetry East, Atlanta Review and Comstock Review.

She is also the author of eight books of poetry, including Tunnel into Morning, Destiny Whispers to the Beloved, and  Ancestors in the Landscape.  Her latest book, Navigating by Expectant Stars, is a poetic response to the discovery of her parents’ wartime love letters.