I was inspired to write this narrative poem when I looked out toward our firepit, and saw that a great clump of Spanish Moss had dropped from our tree and taken up residence on a lawn chair. The way it was draped looked quite comfortable, a trail on each arm. From behind, the lawn chair appeared to be occupied by some mossy beast.
This solitary image turned into a formal meeting using something like Robert’s Rule of Order. Over the course of the many stanzas, the characters refer to the Great Fire of May 3, 1901 which consumed the bulk of the city of Jacksonville, FL. Any and all historical mistakes are, of course, my own.
Hope you enjoy this light hearted poem and keep warm and safe, during this weekend’s Christmas chill.
The Spanish Moss, it took a seat
Beside the raging fire.
It draped itself upon a lawnchair
As the flames grew higher.
The firepit attracted others.
Here, a huge racoon,
A denizen of Under Porch Land,
Yet to meet his doom.
An urban squirrel perched on an arm
And gnawed a husk of nut.
The adirondacks held a pair
Of possums and a hawk.
“What think you of our neighbors?”
Said the owl, with quorum called.
He fiddled with his spectacles
And eyed the furry crowd.
“A point of order!” called the squirrel
And smoothed his rugged coat.
“You mean the couple, just moved in?
There’s neighbors all about.”
“True, true,” the two doves second-ed,
And beasts all nodded heads.
“And that’s not even mentioning
The neighbors gone, long-dead.”
“We never will get anywhere
With constant interruption!”
The owl, his beaky gavel banged
On some out-jutting structure.
“I’m fine with them,” the hawk replied.
“They hardly know I’m there.
They squint and search. Unless I fly
Out in the open air…”
“I’m quite fond of my hovel,”
Said the racoon of his lair.
“They leave me food–a compost pile–
I’m quite content they’re there.”
“This smoke can be a nuisance,”
Drawled the owl, for his part.
“It’s awful for my asthma,
And I’m waiting for a spark
“To singe the edge of this Old Tree–
A hundred years or more–
Which may have been a witness to
The Great Fire, back six score…”
“Ah, yes,” the Spanish Moss, it whispered,
Draping on its chair.
“My roots remember back so far,
Though they breathe naught, but air.
“I played a part–my ancestors,
At least–we fueled the blaze!
For people once made mattresses
Of me, in younger days.
“And at a mattress factory
One spring, when it was dry,
A careless human being
Let a careless firespark fly…
“And soon, the town was all consumed,
Each home, a smoldering pyre,
And people leapt into the river,
Drowning, in the fire.”
The circle round the fire was somber,
Shivering where they lay,
All thinking of the animals
That perished on that day.
“And our own house?” The squirrel clucked
And clutched his mangy tail.
“Did it burn, too?” His paw carressed
His favorite wooden rail.
“Not yet!” So joked the Spanish Moss,
As though the thought were funny,
Though fire struck fear in every beast,
All creatures, bear to bunny.
“I probably shouldn’t sit here, then,”
Observed the moss with glee.
You’d think that kamikaze moss
Would rather kindling be.
The animals looked to and fro
And realized, he was right,
Just one stray spark could set ablaze,
Make Day, of darkest Night.
And so, the Owl banged his beak,
Adjourned the meeting then.
The humans were allowed to stay.
The rest all bolted. When,
As if by fate, two humans
Banged the screen door, wine in hand,
And marched down to the firepit,
They’d left alone to stand,
And as they nestled in,
To hash the happenings of the day,
The woman brushed the moss aside–
Too far, for any spark to fly–
And spared us all the type of fire
That wipes the world away.
Copyright 2022 Andrea LeDew
For more on the perils of being human, read Human. For another nostalgic look at a victim of fire, read Fire Escape.
A fascinating story-poem, Andrea! Danke sehr! Frohe Weihnachten!