Erasmus or one of those guys once said something like: When I have money, I buy books; if there’s any money left over, I buy food. Well, here’s biblio proof, in the shape of James Ross Kelly’s latest and loveliest collection of short stories AND THE FIRES WE TALKED ABOUT (title taken from a beautiful David Whited poem, the relevant passage from which is quoted on X. of the intro pages), that when I have money I buy books; if there’s any money left over, I buy a new sweater. This is some hot reading, kids. Buy a copy: it’ll keep you warm on those dreary chilly fall evenings when there are no ongoing debates to heat you up.
From page X. of the intro to And the Fires We Talked About by James Ross Kelly
This book is dedicated to the memory of my good friend, the poet David Lloyd Whited (1950-2015), who, not finding me home left this poem on my Smith-Corona in 1993.
Even the fish stories were out today And the lies we told were truth one time Before they cut the hills and butchered out the Trout pond, all of us good looking clear-eyed boys All of us searching for the right ax And wondering if the bait that we had was the bait Which they were biting on. Times like these I’m just too busy to get to work Times like these that the friends and the neighbors Which we grew up with are telling us the Summertime, in the wintertime, in the falling rain Good stories and good kids, each of them good And the fires we talked about Are probably still burning up there on That damn hillside.
HE HANDED IT TO ME THEN, I DUNNO, how I did it—knew I shouldn’t, but I just sliced me a slice of fruit with the ol’ barlow knife while I was looking at a coiled up snake, who’d been talking to my woman.
Yes, damnit, I know I should have been suspect of a talking snake. Howsoever, first thing I know, I was making moonshine, skip and go naked foolin’ round til waay after midnight, every-night, everything seemed clear for a while, but trouble was I ended up havin’ to get-a-job, plus plow the farm and then the woman left, and I had to take care of the kids too, and keepin’ the house from fall’n apart.. No more huntn’ and fishin’ just makin’ mortgage payments for a farm I had been given free and clear long ago. Before the bank was even a notion, and it seems like there was a time when there was just plants and animals and clear blue sky, white clouds and the low and high blue flint hills and the woman had really just been a part of me that couldn’t no more leave than I could say anything bad about anything and having kids didn’t involve them growing up and killing each other. Back then I don’t ever remember screaming in the middle of the night either.
The old man’s house was falling down ten years after his death; twenty-years after, the whole south face of Lyman Mountain and Ernie’s place by the Rogue River, was divided up and there were expensive homes built at various river viewpoints and no notion of Ernest Lyman, who had lived there for almost a century—was in anyone’s mind. However, one year after he’d passed, on a hot August, dusk evening that was beginning to cool, I waited for the red glow down river and Vaux’s swifts darted through warm air and willows along the river. Swifts in the red day glow off in the west and evening light.