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Marriage Fires

ISSUE:  Summer 1990
Where on the spectrum of living fire
Do a man and woman walk this morning
Through woods above a shallow river
Late in March? In winter they dozed
And smoldered coolly, or flared inside
Like ice on skin, a flame that numbs.
The grass lay matted and bleached by snow,
And so did they. She painted their walls
To peach or lavendar, blocking the reach
Of clouds and plains, that white on white.
He traveled widely, books in his lap,
Sailing the floor lamp’s pool of light.
They did not know they had been so sick,
But, convalescent, they slept together,
In each other’s arms in separate dreams.

In the woods today the early blossoms
Shine like snow: bloodroot, snowdrops,
Dutchman’s breeches. The man and woman
Breathe cool air. They did not know
They had been asleep, but now
The sensation of slowly waking. The sky
Behind its latticework of empty branches
Starts to their eyes a different blue,
Like a run of music or sudden breeze
That lifts a curtain. Low bushes thrust out
Pointed leaves, green on one side,
Red on the other, little fires
Breaking out on the branch.
Which way shall they walk? The path
Divides. One trail rims a limestone bluff,
Climbing through cedars, then opens high
Where she wants to lead him, hand in hand.
She thinks of how the river looks,
Reflected sun from rippling shallows
Seeming to burn a thousand holes
In the world below. He wants to go down.
The other trail descends through hardwoods,
Skirting a creek. He remembers a pool
Where runoff floods have tumbled the rocks
And once he scooped up spheres of granite,
One in each hand, to strike together
And hear them ring. Though water flew,
He saw them spark, saw the arc that tracked
A glowing chip and smelled like smoke.
So they stand at the branch, each holding
In mind a different way. They do not know
Both end in fire.


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