About Fire

We were talking about fire, the way it can heal and harm,
flames that might consume a world, or warm a heart,
draw us together, or blast a life apart, the shape of it,
the colour, how we make and unmake fires, the uses
that we put it to, ovens, cooking pots, and funeral pyres.
A fine day in the garden, warm for the time of year,
it could be early spring, but for the smokiness in the air,
as if some hidden fire burned nearby, or the garden
was generating its own secret heat, and the autumn wind
that blew across the churchyard wall was tinged
with the smell of decay, that tangy, heady sharp-edged smell
of life that knows it’s dying, and knows too that this dying
is not death. Leaf-mulch, compost, the tucked and sleeping
seed. The conversation ended, the speakers scattered.
Later I talked with Tom who told me about his house
in the mountains of central Crete, and spoke of the burdens
we’re given to carry, and how no cross is too heavy
to be borne, and I recalled the dying god I saw there once
mourned and carried through the streets, and the crowd
that gathered round a single flame, whose frail and flickering
nakedness made the darkness that surrounded it more still,
immense, and potent, and afterwards the streets ablaze
with flames of joy, like the light of a first sun
on the waking sea. We were far from the sea and from any
true fire, though there’s always one kindling somewhere,