An amber growler set in a bank of snow
shows muted reflections of shifting light
while two gray-bearded pastors welcome the night
from the concrete apron of the garage
on the first evening above freezing in three weeks
with a perfect half-moon shining through birch branches.
Flames from a small bed of blazing woodshop scraps
curl around the hand-split edges of deadstand maple,
sending a welcome wafting of warmth and light
toward chairs set close to a blackened firepan.
It is the first we’ve seen of each other in a month
even though we live just five minutes apart.
We speak of other friends,
a brother’s cancer,
the advanced cirrhosis of a family member,
the deadly disease of conspiracy theories,
of vaccinations and school operations,
church and change and scripture
and the names of things that passed long ago
yet still flicker in the recollection of fire and night.
Flame and embers play across our glasses
while we sip mugs of Belgian ale.
Several hundred feet below the summit of this gentle hill,
tractor trailer rigs headed west on Thirty-Six
push their sounds through the shadows of the cedars,
a deep-throated rumble pressing their own shroud of light
into the night that moves around them.
That is not completely unlike
sitting around a winter’s fire
and speaking of things that matter,
even if the speaking changes none of those things.
We do not talk in order to bring an end to night
but rather to share and shine a warming glow
so that we may know
we do not walk alone
toward this passing darkness.