campfire sparks —
someone outside the circle
starts another song
Conjuring a nighttime scene of companions gathered in a warm circle of light, this lovely poem could be in the woods, in an open
field, beside a lake, or on a seashore. I explore a familiar setting that, along with employing sensory pull, holds my attention
with the suggestion of an unexpected moment of involvement. The haiku’s rich layering allows me to enter it through multiple
The careful wording and structure of “campfire sparks” creates rhythmical appeal, its content and musicality summoning
voices of assorted ages joined in song: “Kumbayah”; “Greensleeves”; “You Are My Sunshine”;
“Zum Gali Gali.” Different readers will remember their own campfire favorites. The susurration of esses calls up a
fire’s hissing as it burns sap or damp parts of the wood. With the smell of smoke comes grease dripping from crisp hotdogs,
the charred sweetness of marshmallows melted on the ends of sharpened sticks, the scent of grilled seafood.
The loaded word “sparks” is intuitively ideal. We are drawn to watch sparks from a fire, and the campfire itself
sparks memory and emotion. This poem is about connections, as evinced by the last two lines. “Circle” is a key word,
with connotations of belonging and safety and a reminder of the circle of life.
The second line creates a significant layer, and for me is the crux of the poem. What of the singer who is “outside the
circle,” someone who is apart from the close camaraderie, yet “begins another song”? It could be a visitor who until
now was unsure about joining the group, or some stranger simply walking past. Whoever the person “outside,” he or she
is caught up in the mood, feeling a connection to the singers inside the circle, not wanting the moment to end.
Today as we gather around campfires in the great outdoors, we span generations. We bring families together, renew old friendships,
and make new ones. Following the ways of our forebears, we celebrate societal and familial history through story and song. Several
millennia ago, our ancestors huddled around campfires for protection against cold and predators. Eventually ritualistic gatherings
near fire became a way to carry on spiritual and earthly tradition. Perhaps the campfires that were so vital to early humans are
now part of our inherited, cellular memory. Anyone who has ever watched a fire until the ashes start to whiten around glowing embers
has surely experienced the spell it casts, possibly a nostalgic one with yearnings for a time buried deep in the past.
Billie Wilson’s skillfully wrought poem, while clearly in the here and now, transcends time and distance, evoking treasured
memories and a sense of welcome for someone outside this group of fellowship. I am grateful to her for sharing an experience that
still reverberates, for inviting me into the circle.