I’ve seen smudge pots at auctions,
blackened by decades of smoke.
Usually, they’re lined
in back near the dog pen
with the rusted shovels, double-
bladed axes, sledges, and piles
of rebar. I once met a retired farrier
who collected anvils, and a farmer
who kept his living room
hung with hay hooks and barbed wire.
Somewhere there’s a collector
of smudge pots. Greased
with layers of soot, he knows
their intricacies, the makes
and models, the refinements
of the high end from the low end.
He remembers the merits of smudge,
edging the lonely highway
or thwarting the killing freeze,
the orchards, the dead man's curve.
He lights them still, keeps an old can
of kerosene in the garage.
Al Ortolani was born in Huntington, New York and grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was educated at Pittsburg State University and for the past 41 years has taught in Kansas schools in Baxter Springs, Pittsburg and Overland Park (Blue Valley) as well as an adjunct at Pittsburg State University. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Paper Birds Donít Fly (NYQ, í16)