Fire and Other Poems


There was a time when we didn’t know
how to make it. A long time. We ate animals
burned alive in forest fires. Developed a taste
for rare, for medium. Collected embers
and kept them going for generations, firewatchers
in caves danker than prehistory. We roasted
mastodons. Designed skewers, ovens, steampits.
Invented broiling. Slept with rocks
for the well-held heat. By the time we learned
how to urge smoke from sticks there was nothing
left to do we hadn’t already done. We cooked
the same. We slept near it the same. The difference
was control. Control kept us going. We smelted
iron-blooms in bloomeries. Hammered slag.
Fullered blood gutters to keep the longsword light.
We branded rams—horn, loin, rack, and flank:
Crazy K, Lazy 3, Half-Diamond Flying Double T.
We seared ears off sows to hear if the witches
would scream. They didn’t. But the children did
as they crawled away from their napalmed feet.

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