Believe in fire and the dream of fire,
in light both sky-woven and kindled
in hearths. Believe in the gems
of street lights unraveling a carpet
home, the blink of windows suddenly dark,
masking whatever violence or love
lies down in there. Believe the myth of life
as a kind of burning, saints and lovers
consumed, gone to cinder, gone to ash.
Believe in Prometheus, his eternal torture
for stealing fire, the fire I feel
when I touch my child’s forehead.
Now I believe the little prayers, warm
as air, but unconsumed, as I drive
for juice, cough medicine, soup, anything
that might damp the body’s fire.
I’ve spent hours tending fires, staring
into the red gravel and rubble
wood becomes as fire transforms it. This city
in its cloak of cold fluorescence
denies that it was once a city of hearths,
each house gathered around it pocket
of wood or coal. Before gas was harnessed
or the coughing ignition of Model A’s.
Before the spans of railroad ties, before
all windows were glass. Tonight,
any late driver passing the shaded glow
of my window won’t know I’m waiting
for my daughter’s fever to pass.
They just know someone holds off sleep
the way someone in the first tribe
to possess fire lay in the half-warmth
of the fire circle, sighted up the steeples
of smoke at the stars whose fires
men will not touch, their heat
dispersed across centuries of sky.