Late Waiting

“Late Waiting,” Ensign, July 1977, 59

Late Waiting

It’s good they know about fire,

how to build one

by laying kindling across the paper

rolled and wrung

in the base of the stove or pit;

how to put on

coal, large or small, to fit

the burning time;

how to control the smoke and size

of the flame

by adding

fuel or damping;

how to temper

its end

with caustic

or time;

the caution to give to

smoldering;

how to throw out ashes.

They’ve known since they were children

begging to strike

the match.

There’s no tending now the fires

they build

and light.

Only the hope that they know

how and when and whether

to stir

to keep the fire

in its place.