The Great Fire

For the summer I’m going back to the series of pieces mythologizing my growing up in Cape Breton.

The Great Fire

we were awakened

but the resonant howl

of the harbour foghorn

deep endless 

blasts so rapid they overlapped 


away to the window I flew like a flash

the black of night was blacker

than the print in the red bible

no stars or moon to be seen


at the edge of my vision

I saw the flames

scatter sparks like leaves

into the sky

‘fire fire’

someone below was shouting

‘the great cathedral is aflame’


my father dashed out of house  

men from other houses followed suit

‘fire fire

we must save the relics’

I had this terrifying image

of the Moose at the foot of the cross

melting into a golden puddle

at the feet of the blessed one

everyone in our village

gathered to watch and pray

as the firemen did their job

the choir spontaneously burst into song

singing ‘The Moose and The Saviour’ 


the hoses were attached to the hydrants

only a trickle of water appeared

this was also the hour

the fission plant

was flushing out the their flow valves

when contacted

they refused to stop

because if the flow valves

were not flushed 

there would be hell to pay


we stood and watched

as our beloved

centuries old cathedral 

paid the price of prosperity

while the acolytes 

darted in and out of the flames

rescuing all they could

up and down the 10001 steps

like an army of ants


then from out of the smoke

the men from the Whistling Wood appeared

they danced around the fire


arms linked

the flames flickering & illuminating

their private parts

as a group they coiled up the steps


faced the flames

holding their flame framed privates 

began to piss on the fire


the stench of their burning urine

made many vomit

the naked men

began to pelt the fire

with moose dung

the stench of the burning shit

made many vomit

the flames began to die down 

in the steaming smother

of piss and moose shit

that oozed down the 10001 steps


the fire stopped

the naked men 

vanished into the mist


the next day

when the water pressure returned

the fire department

hosed down the ashes 

to wash it clean of the shit and piss

to reveal

no scorch marks

only glistening golden surfaces 


the cathedral

was whole again 

In Sydney we lived one street away from a fire station. We were occasionally awakened by sirens. There were a few big fires but none that we ever saw, unlike my hero. The worse, which happened after I left, was when Moxham Castle burned down – actually it was gutted by flame & then the brick shell collapsed. My experience of fires comes from movies. 

This entry in the Village Stories pulls on many threads of the mythology: the choir, the moose, the 10001 steps. I recently saw a documentary on the Windsor Castle fire in which people were rushing in & out of galleries saving the art. They weren’t regarded as reckless but as heroes. Oh no not the Faberge egg collection! 

I also had to take another poke at the fission plant and water. I have read of cases where, in some cities, the water pressure was so low thanks to ‘industry,’ fires couldn’t be put out – hence the invention flame suppressant foam. Yes I know fire engine pumpers supply the pressure but if there’s not enough water they are useless.

The praying & singing villagers make me think of those politicians who sent their thoughts & prayers at a time of crisis but that’s it until they tell people to be strong: i.e. don’t moan & bitch about your losses because we’ve done all we can by praying for you. Cheer up because your unhappy faces won’t make things better, neither will we.

I was happy to see a reappearance by the naked men of the Whistling Wood. They present a facet of male magic that isn’t destructive while at the same time isn’t pleasant. Often the things that rescue us have a cost one doesn’t expect. Like the dentist’s freezing – slurring & drooling for an hour is a cost. I also couldn’t resist that image of male private parts illuminated by the fire.

I love the way this ends with a miracle. The Villagers prayers were answered by the outcasts of the Whistling Wood. These men pissing on the cathedral have magically restored it. 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s – sweet,eh?

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