A Small Fire


Russell Kesler teaches writing at the University of Central Florida, where he edited The Florida Review for ten years. His poems have appeared in Quarterly West, Southern Humanities Review, Wilderness, English Journal and many other literary magazines and anthologies.

Pecan Grove Press

A Small Fire
Russell Kesler


ISBN: 1-931247-01-3

"Grounded in the American south, these moving, well-crafted poems take us through a landscape of old barns and closed drive-ins, of mockingbirds and screech owls, of shrimping and squirrel skinning, of piano lessons and root canals. Not to be confused with the dazed, cotton-candyland of Andy and Opie, this is a real place, where small, bright, sometimes nearly painful pleasures must and do compensate for ineveitable suffering and loss. Here, "...the Gulf has lent a mizzle/that is blearing the windows,/but light fills this room...."

—William Trowbridge

The Lesson for Today

Mason sits in his car and listens
to the Haydn waltz his son is learning,
the piano faint, the teacher clapping time.

He remembers his own hands fumbling
on the keys, Mrs. Tiller immense
beside him, how her moist eyes bulged
behind her glasses, the airless little room
smelling of menthol. She had a daughter,
he recalls, pretty, who people said was wild.
She spoke to him once, and sometimes
she confused his dreams, her red lips
forming words that left him when he woke.

Now he watches his son’s lamplit profile intent
above the keyboard, the woman beside him counting.

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Most recent revision
November 11, 2003

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