The poem was written shortly after Mr. Lytle’s death in 1995. I intended it to be part of an expanded edition of Poems from Scorched Earth, thus continuing the meditation on fire–in both its destructive and regenerative powers.

The fire that he loved to stoke was an image
of his eternal energy and his gift for conviviality.

–J.O. Tate

No longer will he stand in life
Before his blazing hearth
The fire of bourbon in his aged hand.
No longer will the warmth of cabin flame
Heat up the soles of winter’s pilgrim feet,
Or brightest talk
Cheer up the way-worn wanderer’s heart.

That fire in memory preserved
Must last in shadows of cold
And dark diminished time;
Must last reflected in the gift
Of our own warmth
That burns brighter,
Compensating loss.

James Everett Kibler

James Everett Kibler is a novelist, poet, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Georgia, where he taught popular courses in Southern literature, examining such figures as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Wendell Berry, and Larry Brown. Born and raised in upcountry South Carolina, Kibler spends much of his spare time tending to the renovation of an 1804 plantation home and the reforestation of the surrounding acreage. This home served as the subject of his first book, Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story, for which he was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Nonfiction in 1999 and the Southern Heritage Society’s Award for Literary Achievement.

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