Campfire tale

The circle of light from the fire
is one frontier; the fire itself
is another. In place of wolves,
we have terrorists who hate
our freedoms, whose virginal skins,
prickly with moral indignation, must
awaken to the touch of canvas-
wrapped explosives & the thought
of lascivious paradise beyond the flash.
I picture barbarians made of frost,
creatures with heads in the middle
of their chests. I remember, too,
those who used to be unmentionable
except by euphemism — the Good
— not to mention the silvery
laughter of imaginary friends, who
by now must be growing tired
of waiting behind some storied stump
that no kids these days would consider
worth leaving the house for, busy
as they are courting boredom
with television & video games.
In the same way that we sit watching
the fire, they stare into screens
aglow with fossilized sunlight from
the forest under the mountain
under the forest. Burning the one,
we lose the others. But hidden
in the wood from the living forest,
our campfire reveals the labyrinthine
plan of some grand city going to ruin
while we watch. Towers crumble.
The wilderness encroaches.
We gather in.

8 Replies to “Campfire tale”

  1. Every once in a while I come across something — a photo, a phrase, a passage, a poem, etc. — that seems to sum up a significant aspect of how I feel; something which also offers insights and new ways of seeing. This poem did that for me. Good work, Dave.

  2. Bill – I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment.

    Pete – Thanks. I’m not too sure about the final (?) product here, but writing it certainly did lead me to understand one or two things a bit more clearly.

  3. Oh you know, like you were a handbag designer or reputable manufacturer. “No one makes space like Bonta”. I’m being silly I’m afraid. Probably the result of too much TV as a child.

    Hey, isn’t that a Stone Coat making an appearance? I wonder what the “storied stump” is. I don’t think Stone Coats don’t make it to Missouri if, as I suppose, Stone Coats are frost heaves. I wonder why their head is in the middle of their chest. In this picture I googled, is the head in the middle of the chest?

  4. “…canvas wrapped explosives…” Makes me think of something I saw scrawled by a condom dispenser once: “Tarp that load!”

    I sometimes fancy “smilodon” in place of “wolves.

    “…paradise beyond the flash…” that’s a good un.

    “fossilized sunlight”—if I’ve heard that before I’ve forgotten it.

    Towers in the embers, very nice.

    Great pictures, great “space”.

  5. Makes me think of something I saw scrawled by a condom dispenser once: “Tarp that load!�

    Heh. Thanks for that!

    Not Stone Coats per se, just, you know, the whole gamut of mythical Others.

    Honesty compels me to admit that i didn’t see the pun in “paradise beyond the flash” until after I posted. Which I suppose testifies to the power of instinct versus analysis in shaping poems like this one.

    Thanks as always for your unique reactions.

  6. I wonder if it is possible for us to imagine a world without monsters? One in which our natural predators (of which we never include ourselves), like sharks and mosquitoes are not seen as evil, but as deserving and necessary, and in which those pretty things, like roses and kittens, are not seen as particularly good or harmless, but as the participants in the food web as voracious and pitiless toward their food as any “predator”. I always found the arguments of vegetarians who refuse to eat meat because they do not want to kill animals rather puzzling; why is it that the lives of plants are less precious than those of animals? For some reason we need to feed our fear and our grand image of ourselves to justify our refusal to look at the world as it really is. The thing is, what are we so afraid of seeing, and why? If we were to admit that there are no monsters, what would happen to us?

  7. These are some excellent questions. For my part, i think it’s O.K. to be scared. In fact, I think that one of our most important and profound responses to the universe is awe, which is composed of roughly equal parts childlike wonder and pants-shitting fear. At a pragmatic level, some level of fear (but not too much) helps one survive harrowing situations. And I think fear may play a role in ethics, too: many peaceful societies inculcate a strong fear of confrontation and violence in their children. So without disagreeing with anything you just wrote, the questions I would like to add are these: Can we have fear without hatred? Can we respect predators without either demonizing or worshipping them?

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