Poetry: After Fire by Nick Martino
“After Fire” holds a quiet grief: a scene so carefully observed and distilled that it feels like a held breath, each line asking us to live inside it. The repetition of sorrow, its insistence on expansion, settles in the air in the wake of Nick Martino’s poem.
Tomatoes fatten early in the season
of the barn fire, like a sorrow
whose perimeter expands in silence.
Last year, ten barns burned.
This witch-light will not starve us, after all.
In harvest, in harm—corridors of wheat fall
beneath the fire’s scything.
The meadow is a burned-down house.
The cornfield, gone to cinder-flower,
sharpens in a marble wind.
A broken kitchen window, the ruins
of a garden wall.
My father sleeps beneath a gown of tar.
A sorrow whose perimeter expands
like a pine door swollen in its jamb.
Underneath the meadow’s
palimpsest of ash
the cellar door won’t open again.
Nick Martino is an MFA student in poetry at University of California, Irvine. He was a 2022 Best of the Net nominee and the winner of UC Irvine's 2021 Programs in Writing Award for Excellence in Poetry. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Meridian, Hobart, Five South, Carve Magazine, and Sugar House Review, among others. You can find him at @field_book.