Fire Song

Apply the bandage of a perfectly formed metaphor
to your ashen forehead        to our burning world.


The fire that you see at night—        eats itself
across the curve of known universe—


the orange light of our disappointments.


Across the small arcs of apricots     cherries     peaches
today we sit withering

under the red sun of our disbelief.


The soft prunes the gods served us for their entertainment—
the glowing amber of my mind—peeled        exposed—


We eat what we are served.     We’ll have to change
our metaphors to fit this feast.


In our parched and ailing minds

grows a loneliness fit for gods.


My mouth swollen with beautiful words     I have
been saving to heal the forest        and the meadows.
I remember

their impatient wild flowers.


My windpipe contracts in this anaphylactic
season of unbearable heat        it’s viral corona.


The poem truly begins here—    after the harvest
what’s left unanswered

what still remains



Daniela Elza has worked on poems-between-two with more than thirty collaborators.


Alan Hill’s latest collection, In the Blood, is out now with Caitlin Press.

Questions and Answers

1. As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Daniela: Write everyday. Write a lot. Carve time in your day to sustain a writing practice and attend to your writing. “Attention is the beginning of devotion,” says Mary Oliver. If you do not enjoy writing and spending endless hours tweaking or playing with words, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration, bitterness or resentment. If writing and revising is its own reward, everything else on top of that comes as bonus. Publishing becomes a natural extension of that. The only way to find out is to be curious, pay attention and write. A lot.

Alan: My advice is always the same. Don’t just write poetry but read poetry as well, the more the better. Poetry is largely a craft. I would advise to read widely. Even if it is not a form of poetry that immediately appeals, I would suggest reading it to try to grapple with the craft of the work, how it has been constructed and what the work is trying to say.

Approach your work with humility and take rejection on the chin, as there will probably be a lot of it. Avoid bitterness and jealousy as it can only damage you and your work. If your work is good then it will, eventually, find a home. Remember that you are your first reader and if you don’t like what you have written, the chances are nobody else will either. Be true to your own instincts and experiences.

2. What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

Daniela: In 2009 I started a project of collaborating with poets and writing poems-between-two. Over the last twelve years, this project has grown to include poems created with over thirty collaborators. After each collaboration I invite the other poet to write process notes, which accompany the poems. I have a whole book now that is looking for a publisher.

Alan: I was inspired initially as I was very flattered to be asked to collaborate by a writer of Daniela’s calibre. I was also inspired by the sudden and startling beauty of our passionate and quite intense poetic friendship. To be asked to collaborate in this exercise was a great honour. I was also very inspired by the act of us, as two near strangers walking out together into the complete fog drenched isolation of a Pacific oceanside. The first poem, Water Song, came out of that experience. It was a moment of rare beauty and opportunity to communicate in real depth with another human being and our poem was a humble attempt to capture that experience.

3. How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

Alan: We wrote this poem by email exchange on a hot August day. The poem wrote itself quickly. I was writing in my dark, perpetually wintry basement, watching a bright optimistic light, trying to break into the room through my small high window. We have held many imaginary meals, traveled together from the dinner table to the outer planets of language. We are two people that rarely met, but through the written word, its heat, its perpetual fire, have traveled great distances together.

Daniela: Once we were done adding lines back and forth to Fire Song, we went back and forth with edits, and tweaks. It was a summer in which we began to get a taste of what the fires of the following years would bring. One of the things that still amazes me about this poem is that it is hard to identify which of the lines I wrote and which were contributed by Alan. Perhaps due to how quickly the poem happened, or perhaps due to a meld of minds that cannot tell who is writing. I love the vast aperture of the poem.

This poem “Fire Song” originally appeared in Canadian Literature: 252 Canadian Literature (2023): 134-135.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.