433 Readings

Hermeneutics of Fire

When fires burned on the mountain all season
I kept below,
  and did what I could in my small way:
  I placed cups of water around the perimeter of my yard for the foxes;

I collected juniper berries;
rusted kettles;
lost leaves kept from trees I would see again;
and feathers. I kept a church-key

for unspooling film from its spiral and walked long distances
into the char, heat
rising from the earth,
to take pictures which unveiled their dark edges behind the fog
in their bath. The birds had gone, and I kept asking
for rain
but beneath the eaves of my cabin heat refused
to give way. Fire jumpers spilt from their parachutes

into the flames, and I told myself, what is belief, anyway,
but the pattern of smoke
on a low ceiling where, below, a candle
has burnt every night
for years. Fire moves slowly,
and with great care,
as in flickering films of the Hindenburg spilling open onto the air,
the cool, muscular coil

of a snake shrugging off its scales in the rafters. Every morning
I walked in from the forest
of heat, its houses hollowed to beams in the burn, and asked myself
What is belief but the pattern of smoke,

a brief pleasure? Swallows, returning, spilt from their bearded nests
into the low dusk
moving carefully, unshadowed,
into what is known.
Posted 11/27/12
Previously published in the Yalobusha Review (issue 13, Spring 2008).
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