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ISSUE:  Autumn 1990

I wanted to burn myself, so I threw my tools
In the fire and tried to pull them out.
The screwdriver with the plastic handle—yes,
It made a mess of my hand. My drop-forged
Pliers—those pliers I use as inadequate wire-cutters,
Or for rounding off nuts when I should have a wrench—
Yes, it seared my palm with a lip-like scar
At the line of fortune. My claw-headed hammer
Had a hickory handle that burnt through and
Let its head fall back in the fire, but my
Iron ax with its heavier helve, what I’d used
To split things to burn, stayed alive
In my hand, stayed on fire, fire dancing
The whole length of it, and I wanted to see
Myself feed yellow and orange fire flags,
Blue at the bone, maybe a little pyramid
At last of black silent ash, but at its
Actual marriage with fire, its ultimate
Intercourse with it, fat and muscle
Merely sizzled like the meat we eat
At a backyard barbeque, while real fire,
Brief as music, a wand of wild flowers
Blossoming without stems or roots, soared
From this steady crooked smile of clear
Hard wood as if it loved its lack of emphasis—
Good wood accepts its fate, good wood serves,
Good wood burns slowly without wincing—while
The hand, and everything human, remembers
The fire, shies from it, hopes and heals, and
Yet sometimes successfully imitates it,
Touches with flare a guitar or a violin,
Touches a brush, touches to beguile
Your steady eyes awhile, touches your cheek.


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