(For Mavis Wood who showed me)
An oil drum.
No, not that big
not as big as Old Rusty
which you left home on
walking backwards to join the circus
rumbling so loud, women came out to their gates
hoping for tanks.
This oil drum is half that size.
It’s rusty outside, and inside
the walls are smooth with soot.
There’s no lid
and in the other end a hole
the size of a girl’s clenched fist.
Stand it on four bricks
and block the hole with a wooden stake
at least as tall as your drum.
Fill the drum with sawdust
climb in and cram it down with bare feet
pack more in, until your feet are black
and you reek of sap and smoke.
Lift the stake out gently
to leave a shaft through the sawdust.
Balance a four-gallon pan on top
light the smallest of fires under the drum
listen to it twist up through the sawdust
till the drum's burned clear
then dole out warm water
to the girls and the guiders.