Things to Think About

Scott Beal

—for Zoe

Not fire. Not fire cascading in blue jewels
            from the stovetop gas jets, not tentacling
the tile, not fire creaking up the stairs, trying on the clothes
            in your closet. Not fire twining like ivy
up your mother's bones. Saying not fire,
            though, is the same as saying fire, nebulas
of gasoline, starbursts in the soapdish,
            magma running in the gutters.

You've never seen a blaze not caught
            behind a grill or sunk inside a circle of stones,
never seen a spark catch a curtain
            or race along a fuse but in your head
dust is gunpowder and your body wrapped in sheets
            a mummy in a furnace, so if you're not thinking
about Athena being born wearing armor,
            of the clank when she lands on her feet

and turns, armed, to face her father's gaping brain,
            think of snails at the shell wash,
a burger joint in the basement.
            Think of cloudboats or whaleboats
or a sun with no fire in it, just continually opening
            daffodils pouring nectar over the planets.
Think of things you can send in an envelope,
            things you can lead on a leash.

Think of what the sun could be made of
            if it wasn't fire, not fire licking its chops,
breathing in your ear as you sleep,
            saying shh, don't wake up, it's all in your head,
and it is, the fire, it's all in your head,
            you can kill it with a thought, so think
of all the things you could build a bridge from
            for your tubful of plastic people,

think of the plots of puppet shows for pandas,
            think of when you and I used to dance
to Mr. Jack, how we stomped and thrashed around the purple
            swivel chair as a voice screamed Fuck! You! Pig!
though you were three and didn't catch it
            and your memory of those years is burnt clean,
everything burns, everything will,
            but if you let that thought overtake you as you lie

in the dark we're half ash already,
            so think of the bridge you'll build
and the township waiting for your people on the other side
            with turquoise pools and a lean-to
made of picture books, think of the fabulous animals
            with whom they'll talk about the view
across the river of the smoking quarry they have left behind,
            its veins of charcoal, its glorious ores.