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Nancy Simpson's LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE, New and Selected Poems was published by Carolina Wren Press (N.C. Laureate Series, 2010.) She is the author of ACROSS WATER and NIGHT STUDENT, State Street Press, still available on WWW at Alibris and Books Again. Her poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review and other literary magazines. "Carolina Bluebirds" was published in THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS, Anhinga Press). "Grass" was reprinted in the 50th Anniversary Issue of Southern Poetry Review: DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY ( U.of Arkansas Press.) Seven poems were reprinted in the textbook, SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY,(McFarland.) Two poems were published in SOLO CAFE, Two more poems were published in SOLO NOVO."In the Nantahala Gorge" was published in Pisgah Review. "Studying Winter" was reprinted in Pirene's Fountain Anthology and "The Collection" in Collecting Life Anthology. Most recently, Southern Poetry Review Edited by James Smith, published "Our Great Depression," and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. VII: NORTH CAROLINA,Edited by William Wright, reprinted "Leaving in the Dead of Winter."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

TEACHING MYSELF How to Burn Last Years Leaves by Nancy Simpson

If you live in a forest
don't burn on a windy day.
Look on the boundary oak
for the surveyor's orange ribbon.
If it is not dancing, if it dangles,
you can hope burning is safe.
Best, burn when rain is predicted.

Rake leaves onto the dirt driveway.
Make small leaf mounds.
Burn one or two leaf piles at a time.
Don't let yourself think of the day
your young sons scorched the mountainside.
Do not look across the drive
where your old home place used to be.

Forget it. The cabin was dismantled,
buldozers to the ground, buried.
Don't think of the man who found you
burning leaves one spring and said,
"Let me help you." He will not come back.
They're all gone now. Rake and burn
leaf piles 3&4, 5&6.

Let sudden wind frighten. Rake faster
when your hear thunder. Rake hot coals
into the gravel. Stop only when rain
drives you back to the tool shed.
Tomorrow you will see bright green foliage
of five thousand daylilies lining your drive,
promising to bloom.

Previously published in Journal of Kentucky Studies


Lynn Hamilton Rutherford said...

Mom ... I love this! Why have I never seen this one? It's beautiful and says SO much more about life than just burning leaves! This might just be one of my new favorites!!! I love you! (((hugs)))

Nancy Simpson said...

Hello Dear One, It was good to hear your voice in the phone. Also, thanks for the comment on the poem. Do you remember during hospice when I had three poems accepted? This was one of those poems. When I told Kathryn Stipling Byer, she said, "Your poems are talking back to you." It was a comfort to see that those three poems were sending me back memories or messages to get me through the death of my son. This poem was published at Journal of Kentucky Studies, and it is included in my manuscript titled Living Above the Frost Line.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...


I love this poem. It sure describes with beautiful imagery how to burn leaves. Great poem!

Melissa Greene said...

Nancy, this is a beautiful poem. Thank you so much for sharing it.