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One night I saw a battle
between a firefly
and a fairy.


I think he was an Irish fairy,
for he grinned as he fought,
and I know he was red-haired.


The wicked monster,
beast and bug at once,
charged the fairy
again and again,
rushed and flew at him, fuming,
pulsating luminously with throbs of rage,
as if a winged bull of Nineveh
were in the ring with a toreador--
a winged bull that had swallowed
a kitchen range,
which glowed through its iron ribs,
and, like a matador,
the red-haired fairy dodged and side-stepped the furious rushes,
and finally ripped up the beetle and laid it,
extinguished and gray,
among the other ashes
at the feet of a little brown and gold lady
(Queen Mab herself, perhaps)
who had been watching the struggle from a hickory limb
and nervously swallowing sparks
from time to time
to keep her courage warm.


For all this took place in a bed of coals,
in a valley beneath a half-burned log,
in an open fireplace.


It was a scene that came out of the wood.


It was a thing,
for all I know,
that had actually happened
some night forty years ago,
when the wood was green
and growing
and sucking in through leaf and root
all the secret, deep, essential life
of the abounding forest.


The logs drink up the spirit of the midwoods,
the sense of it,
the moods and humors of it--
April riots,
scamperings of squirrels,
June dusks,
quick glintings of bright eyes,
stir of wings--
and when the bark chars
and the sap sings
it all comes out of the logs again
in flame and song and dream and drama.


Poke the fire and pick your forest--
you may have the heart of any woods you will,
from Arcadia to Arden.