Poetry & Writing

by Naomi Fast


The woodcutter sold us bundles
of sticks for the woodstove which
consumed them to stew beans, bake
bread, purify drinking water. In the
yard another fire burned all day
under a blistered barrel, boiling
clothes-washing water. Keeping fires
burning was a daily chore. The tired
red coals had to be revived each morning,
a woman’s job. They were contained,
bored with lack of escape, unlike the wild
fires that caught and grew in the dry
grass, that galloped toward the villages
and had to be fought off by men
with brooms, shovels and prayer all night.


*      *     *     *     *     *

Kajiji Fires  is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of a 2003 Academy of American Poets Prize. It was originally published in the 2009 edition of the Portland, Oregon anthology, VoiceCatcher.

Naomi Fast grew up in Fresno, Brussels, and Kajiji, a gentle, rural place in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She holds Master of Arts degrees in Creative Writing & Theater Arts from Portland State University, where she’s been an adjunct professor since 2006. After completing her Master’s degree in Poetry Writing at Portland State University, Naomi served on the Editorial Collective for the Fall 2011 edition of VoiceCatcher and has published poetry across the country (in Dogwood, the anthology Empty Shoes, and Pacific Yachting to name a few). She’s also been compiling several collections of her work, and—as time and resources allow—is translating a book of poetry by Congolese poet Olivier Sangi Lutondo, in dedication to her childhood home, Kajiji, Zaire.

If you’re interested in supporting this project financially or otherwise,
you can get in touch with Naomi via LinkedIn or send a letter to:

P.O. Box 5724
Portland, OR 97228

4 thoughts on “Poetry & Writing

  1. Hey, Naomi. I really like your poem Kajiji Fires. It captures the simple yet urgent way of life in Africa in the early 80s. I visited Kajiji with my parents when you were quite young. What an experience for me–and a fascinating early childhood for you. If you ever have an urge to visit NYC, let us know. We have an extra bedroom and love guests–especially family!

    Your 2nd cousin, Ruthann Richert

    • Ruthann, Hello! It’s so nice to find your message here from last October. It is now New Year’s Day 2017 but what’s a few months in the whole scheme of things? haha

      Thanks so much for reading this poem—I am so glad you felt it captured something of Kajiji. I seem to remember we all hiked down the hillside to see the water wheel. I’d love to know what some of your impressions were of the infrastructure, and of your experience there. I hope for an opportunity to travel your way for a visit; I just might take you up on that guest room!

      Happy New Year! ~Naomi

    • Hi Vika,
      I got your note about the screening to be held next week & I hope to be there. I’m so glad I—and especially my poem—could be part of your project. I’d love it if you post a link here or to my twitter @naomifast to share the Portland video & your project page!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s