Read firefighter’s moving poetry, see art, and ride in antique engine at Fresno ArtHop

Fresno Fire Department Capt. Gary Wedemeyer didn’t expect he’d become a poet.

But after reading a book of poems about the horrors of war from an American military sergeant, his thinking changed. Those poems inspired him to write some of his own, based on his experiences as a Fresno firefighter over the past 29 years.

They will be on display Thursday at Fresno Fire Station 3, located at 1406 Fresno St. in downtown Fresno, for the Fresno Fire Department’s first ArtHop exhibit, featuring art made by firefighters, including photography and woodworking.

An antique fire engine will also be picking up art hoppers starting at 5 p.m. in the Cultural Arts District, at the corner of Fulton and Calaveras streets, to bring them to the station. ArtHop – which displays artists’ work throughout downtown Fresno the first and third Thursdays of every month – goes until 8 p.m.

“That sergeant’s poetry, it was a window into his world that the average person doesn’t necessarily get to see. … It kind of made me think about it, that he let us into his world,” said Wedemeyer, who is captain of Station 6 near Fresno State.

Here is one of Wedemeyer’s moving poems that will be on display:

A small boy

The walls dance with cockroaches gathering

Trash of floor exposes worn carpet marking small paths to need

Smell that spills from the doorway hinting of tales to behold inside

Mossy watered fish tank comforting the carcass of creatures long since departed

No father lives here

Mommy is in the back bedroom resting a pulse less meth-induced nap

And yet this small boy smiles at me

A rare genuine gem of a smile

He has not learned shame for the rotting teeth in his mouth

He lives here and yet he gives me this smile

My heart aches

Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.