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Smoke Rings

By Philip Timpane

That's the mulberry

that last year's early snows bent

so low over the garden

we chose to lop it off for light

burning now in the cast iron belly

of our living room stove its memory

fueling a few nights' warmth from the dark-hearted

rings that if we'd counted we might have known

logged the climate of half or so our years together

before giving up their anniversary ghosts

joule by joule to warm our spirits

smoked out of routine hibernations

by the kindling of the longest night

Nowhere near green

as we used to be

a few broken limbs and skinned up bark

twin trunks still reaching more or less for the stars

forming out of earthly combustions

the substance of our own intangible rings

counting for a moment

ourselves lucky

knowing we're adrift

shifting shapes leaving

to those who number the nights

the afterglow of our heat.