smoke fire, Paul Jones

Charles Hood, Wheelbarrow


smoke fire


smoke can’t speak
fire can’t be silent
embers and ashes
glow and powder
the two natures
entwine vine like
but more unlike
not opposite
each in need
of that other
one coming as
another comes
rising almost
as the same one
now we can see
the differences
the ways that fire
works its wonder
the way smoke loses
itself in a breeze

Paul Jones


Review by Chapman Hood Frazier

With the fires in New Mexico and the wholescale destruction that they convey, there is in Jones’ poem a more nuanced understanding, a balance caught like in Gu Ti Chinese poetry where the couplet if the foundation but there is a broader less rigid structure in rhyme and content. 

            The lines here are beautifully balanced. “smoke can’t speak/ fire can’t be silent/” Each of the paired lines expand on this and extend the concept of smoke and fire.  In the following two lines “embers” link to “glow” and “ashes” to “powder” and then again brought together in the extended rhyme line: “entwine vine like” and again, the contrast, “but more unlike” and turned again, “not opposite”. 

            I’m impressed with his precision here, his close observation, his good eye and in the expansiveness of the poem as it moves from the very concrete towards the abstract as the “we” or human enters the poem to “…see/ the differences/ the ways that fire/works its wonder/ the way smoke loses/itself in a breeze” There is no period, no closure but a continuation, an disintegration and dispersal into breeze as we refocus and the transformation, we see.


Review by Joe Bisicchia

Paul Jones does more than paint a picture of a conflagration. It is a video he presents, but even far more. You can hear the flame, feel the heat, and smell the ember. And then realize even more. To me, this is a poem about relationship. One can sense how we all can entwine, to use his word, in the becoming one with another, as if in a marriage, without losing self, but gaining a singular and more expansive purpose together. This poem provides light about partnerships, about harmony in voice and silence, about the yin and yang that involves us all. It highlights the dependency we have, in light of our differences, with each other, and the complimentary need we all somehow face in a world not alone. It speaks to how we impact each other. The visual of the fire making its wonder and the smoke losing itself in the breeze makes us believe how we all make that glow together, sure as the one oxygen we breathe.


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

This poem carries the spiritual insight of the Classic culture. Of a time when the elements were figured to be alive and endowed with conscience, even personality. A magical era (for humans’ power of imagination at least), in which a sense of enchantment wrapped the most common things; daily life facts and events protected by a deferential ignorance that was functional to preserve nature and keep humanity in its place – protecting us from ourselves, I hear someone say.

That could not last. Of course now we know a bit more about fire and smoke: for instance, the two are now known to be part of the same chemical affair in which, all in all, there’s very little room for thrill or poetry. Yes, we know now pretty much everything there is to know about fire and smoke, as from vacant satellites we can measure dense windswept fumes looking like ectoplasms pouring from the planet’s crust as it rolls down its orbit.


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