The Arsonist’s Lament

Eric Smith

from num­ber 41, Spring 2014

If like fire I could lash the fields
and climb the crowns of pines
to test the air with my tongue,
would the soul-stunned dream
of me, one who rewrites the dark
codices in the libraries of flame?
Or will I bed down in the horn
of a ram, quiet as the moth’s
applause? I hum to the wires
in the walls of an empty room
that once ached with ardor.
Memories, banked in ash, per­sist,
aban­doned to the rain’s era­sures.
I will never be the man who wor­ries
the earth with fur­rows. I burn
like those who spell the hid­den names
of kerosene in the yel­low grasses.
For I have watched the world emerge
from a duc­tile seed, have seen the men
who raise their sons in fists of smoke
and stamp on the sky dark alpha­bets
full of syl­la­bles so raw they sting
the throat. I lift myself to that song.