The Sandy Hook Fire

Henry Hart

Like a monk hunched over gilded letters,
my brother studied flies hatching on the Pootatuck,
picked a red and gold Parmachene Belle
from a metal box, tied it to a tippet
and cast it toward trout rings in a willow’s shadow.

He never saw wind hurtle sparks from the fire pit
in the field, dry weeds flare like gunshots,
charred canvas flap from tents. As he fished
others tore off shirts to beat the flames
rushing in a black circle toward the explosive woods.

Heat melted our counselor’s eyebrows
and arm hair to stubble. At dusk he dumped
our scorched backpacks in a latrine and buried them.
All I carried home was a snapped fly rod
and a Polaroid of my brother’s Rainbows.

Last May, we fished our way back to the burnt field,
talked about Sandy Hook and caught nothing.
Today I cast my brother’s ashes on the river
where his line still loops toward trout rings,
his face still floats beneath willows, a shadow among shadows.

Henry Hart is author of many critical works and collections of poems, including The Ghost Ship, Battleground Radiation, and Familiar Ghosts. A former Poet Laureate of Virginia, he is Mildred and J. B. Hickman Professor of English and the Humanities at the College of William and Mary.
Originally published:
October 1, 2018

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