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Poem: "The Mascot of Engine 18" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Mascot of Engine 18"

This poem came out of the January 4, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from ellenmillion and sponsored out of general funds, selected by the audience in a recent poll.

Engine 18 is a real Detroit firefighting company, among the oldest.  Devil's Night (aka Hell Night) is an arson fest that thrived in Detroit for years before being somewhat repressed; not all of the horror in my poetry is imaginary.

The Mascot of Engine 18


In Detroit, dalmatians never really caught on.
The long elegant lines proved too dapper
for a working man's city, the spackled white coat
impossible to keep clean.

It was Devil's Night when the crew of Engine 18
noticed a mutt-ugly form loping alongside their truck,
effortlessly keeping the pace.
When they hooked up the hoses and went to work,
he sat just out of reach, watching them
douse the burning houses with white arcs of water.
They tried to shoo him away, but the mutt
simply flicked a ragged left ear and danced out of reach.
Once they stopped chasing him, he sat back down.

Only when the flaming walls of a tenement collapsed,
trapping three of the firemen inside,
did the scruffy grey form spring into action.
He dodged the yelling rescue crew and
dashed into the fire,
soon to reappear dragging a fireman by the boot.
Twice more he vanished into the flames
and returned, the final time forcing his way out
through piles of rubble, fireman tucked under his body.

The firemen put out the smouldering fur
and laid the mutt on a nest of blankets in the truck,
unsure whether he would survive the night.
Yet at the very next fire, he leaped to the ground,
alert as ever.  They were too busy
to remark on the strangeness of it. 
Fire after fire commanded their whole attention.

By the time dawn smudged the smoky sky with tired yellow light,
even the mutt was flagging.  They carried him, blankets and all,
into the garage and settled him there.  His thin tail
thumped in weary thanks against the floor.

 

 


The firemen were amazed to find
a naked man curled in the dog's nest,
perfectly whole except for the same ragged left ear,
smelling of smoke but not a hair singed.
They had seen strange things aplenty on Devil's night, though,
so they simply waited for him to awaken with an explanation.

The werewolf was amazed to find
a quietly attentive audience
surrounding him when he woke.
There were no pitchforks,
and certainly no torches.

So he explained how the moon's rule
had given way to the streetlights,
changing his shape just before dusk
and back again just after dawn.
In the plain light of day, he walked as a man;
by night's electric power, he ran on four legs.
He told them how the fire engine's siren
seemed to call to the wolf in him,
for no reason he could name in words,
but the firemen gave him grave nods of understanding.

If the other fire crews wondered why
the mutt-ugly mascot of Engine 18 wore a badge on his collar,
they kept it to themselves after seeing him work the firelit nights

and the next year,
on Devil's Night, the arsonists learned that
there are scarier things than police on Detroit streets
when they turned from their matches and gasoline cans
to face a low, rumbling growl.

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16 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
seticat From: seticat Date: January 7th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay, *that* one sent chills up my back.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked it.

Why chills, if I may ask?
seticat From: seticat Date: January 7th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Just the whole visual image and concept.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Okay, thanks. It does make for good visuals.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: January 7th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Way cool! :D
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: January 7th, 2011 07:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I was really hoping to see this poem get published. :)
eseme From: eseme Date: January 7th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
So, very cool!

The story is great, and the images here are very powerful.

I'm so glad this got sponsored by the general fund!
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: January 7th, 2011 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Me too! I voted for it, and am glad it won. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to see this poem is so popular.

Next poll is now up, for picking the $15 and the $5 poem.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I think it's cool when a lot of people latch onto the same poem like this.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: January 7th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooooh, yeah, I got good chills too, and a shiver at the vision of him confronting the arsonists!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

Yeah, it would really suck to be out lighting fires and come face-to-fang with a firehouse-werewolf.
siege From: siege Date: January 7th, 2011 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I love this one. ^.^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear that.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: January 7th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well done!

I love the idea of streetlights rather than the moon. And I love firemen. Very well done!
16 comments or Leave a comment