A fire like this

A fire like this

What if we had just let the earth be the earth,
never pressed our wry fingers into mistlands,
marveled at our dewmarks and footprints, left dents,
followed our mothers as they walked through grass,
her swaying wake and swaying wake and swaying wake;
she was padding down the broken stems, saying take this, take this,
take it by the roots, and you can feel soft here, sleep.

Mother was the first to carve out Yellowstone;
mother was the first to peel the bark back from trees,
saying, I can make something from this;
I was saying, I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m tired;
father was saying, I need fire;
he built one that burned hungry warm, collapsed on our hearts,
kept us close like we were embers joined at melted limbs,
and father slept; he’d kept the quiet gentle,
and next, he’d teach us how to raze the grass,
tells us, this is how you create a field,
and this way, you will not starve.

I drink at the streams; my mother is saying,
you see the otter there, I mean the mink, there,
I can make something from this;
I can make something from this;
my mother made a list of the animals left,
when there were so many animals left;
I said, teach me how to make myself as soft and warm
as they are, teach me how to be as whole and as home
and as close; the winter is so cold;
father said you have to take out the part that breathes,
and he taught me how to take it apart, as I asked,
how do the birds stay alive?
I’m a bird who does not want to die,
wrapped in someone else’s skin,
saying, this is how I’ll keep warm;
this is how I’ll keep warm.

What if we had just let the earth be the earth,
never needed more: more lemons, more sunflowers, more olives, more cows,
more thinking, more thinking, this is how we go, this is how we grow,
conquer the cold, the heat, the snow, so the cities draw sunlight,
and the buildings pulse the cool freshness of the air,
so no sidewalk is as hot as if we’d just let it be;
what if we’d stayed under the trees, never made these trash heaps,
catching fire everywhere so we’re looking at the flames, saying, I wanted fire,
the smoke, the warmth, the ash; fire now curled in the heart of rivers
whistling out of the Amazon to the sea, burning California, burning Australia;
my father saying, I wanted a fire, sleeping in the quiet,
where it feels so nice to be in the glow,
and I’m making a list of the animals left,
saying I wanted fire, too, but, father, never one like this.

 

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