To Build a Forest Fire

            You can tell a photo is staged
when the frame reads: Exeunt,

        and five people posing for a selfie
        on the emptying log are clearly

in the middle of starting a fire,
sans brush, sans a fire pit large

            enough to prevent this half-
        hearted scene from blustering

into a wooded inferno. The sea
            diamond blue with white hat

tent belies this staging as well
            as the fresh clothes and dirtless

            skin—styled hair. Even for the first
day in the woods. You can tell

a smile is staged when it’s surrounded
by other curtains, and the clearing

            silences itself with the smoke
the color of an approaching sunset.

Only this, and maybe less: you
            can see how a stage begins to mirror

real life when nature becomes reserved for
vicarious songs, photos of friends’ candy grins.


Photography © Glenn Bowie

Photography © Glenn Bowie


michael e woods is a poet and journalist currently based in Berlin, Germany, where he’s finishing his poetry and prose memoir. The manuscript earned him highest honors in English at Vanderbilt University, which also awarded him the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015.

Glenn Bowie is a published poet, lyricist and photographer from the Boston area. He also owns and operates an elevator company that supplies custom-built elevators for clients from New England to Hollywood. Author of two poetry and photograph collections (Under the Weight of Whispers and Into the Thorns and Honey) on Big Table Publishing, he donates all profits from his books to various charities for the homeless and local animal shelters. Glenn is also the official photographer for the Newton Writing and Publishing Center.