Fireguard

Tony Harrison

The best wood to make chips with for our fire
was from bakehouse boxes Dad brought smeared with lard.
It had a whiplash crack. Its sparks leaped higher.
You had to look sharpish with the fireguard.

Primed with Posts Mam plaited the greased chips
lit with a purple sputter and deep hiss.
More than childhood’s pier-machines or sherbet dips
this fire I learned to lay’s what I most miss,
though my hands got clarted with thick lard and slack
and newsprint from the crumpled Yorkshire Post,
and made the white bread finger-marked and black
when I used the fire I’d lit to make us toast.

Why can’t my memory home in on just that?
Through the griefguard round the glow we all sat near
burst sputterings of polished wood and fat,
then smoke I crane my neck at to watch clear.