This week’s poem brings us a “thrifty New Englander,” a character right out of Frost, a practical man doing an impractical thing: giving away a great pile of kindling. His gift demonstrates a healthy respect for the danger of heating a home with wood by those families who have done it that way for generations.

Anne Witty lives in the midcoast, where she works as a curator, poet, maritime historian, musician, organic gardener and sailor of vintage wooden boats. Her poetry has appeared in magazines and most recently as the winner of the Knightville Poetry Contest in The New Guard Volume V. She earned her master of fine arts in poetry from the University of Southern Maine.


By Anne Witty

No doubt he used his granddad’s tools

to shed the worn-out cladding, add

a layer of bright new cedar. Then,

like any thrifty New Englander,

he collected every cast-off piece

and drove over with his offering.

We were glad to have it, stacked some

firewood at his cabin in return.

Now we’re burning those old shingles

one fistful at a time. All autumn

they’ve been tinder for our stove—

just touch a match and watch them blaze,

grayed cedar dry and tired

from a hundred forty winters.

But why give up all that kindling,

with Maine winter setting in?

He looked away, then muttered,

his grandfather in his voice,

I’d never dream of feeding

any part of home to its own hearth,

for fear the house might take a notion

to eat itself in fire.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Anne Witty. It appears here by permission of the author. This column is accepting submissions through Oct. 31. Poems must be written by Maine poets or about Maine. Submissions must be made online. For more information go to

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