Flaming Heart

This entry is part 22 of 31 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2013


These are the words used by a woman in my yoga class
to describe intensity of feeling: the kind that is
untempered and so always burns too much, too fast,
too hot; the kind that does not seem to understand

you can’t just drive a fist into the nearest wall,
scream I quit (or just scream and scream) in the middle
of a crowded restaurant as silverware and chairs
clatter to the floor, then run off sobbing into the darkness

without any sense of where to go— But it is important to know
that this same flaming heart is not exactly the opposite of balance,
or more precisely that balance is not indifference nor the negation
of any feeling at all. I think I know what she might be trying to say:

which is perhaps the recognition that rage and joy, despair
and soaring hope, are faces of the same goddess dancing
on a bed of burning coals, her naked feet not flinching,
her million golden arms circling and lifting, then lowering

and still. Everything in between, I don’t need to be told,
is suffering. And I think, didn’t I cut myself open in just
the same way when I was young, didn’t I find the world
unbearable, didn’t I want to run away or throw myself

on some pyre of oblivion for the sake of wearing
the reddest, most radiant welt on my sleeve— my anger,
my helplessness and pain, my tenderness and loneliness
for the world to acknowledge? One afternoon

in college, I remember telling my philosophy teacher
(whose mind I greatly admired) as he shared an umbrella
and we walked to class in a downpour how I couldn’t
stand people in general
. I no longer know what prompted that,

but now I flush, realizing that he looked at me with genuine
kindness and not the pity or contempt I thought was surely
the only thing his open face could signify. Miserable
after class, I suffered in silence from that unguarded

disclosure and sat with others in the damp courtyard,
only half listening as my peers tossed back their Breck-
shampooed hair, volleyed phrases like dialectical
in between puffs from clove cigarettes

then launched into their usual rants against society,
the sham government and its puppets, the whole petty-bourgeois-
bureaucratic-capitalist machinery. Who was it started poking
randomly at a wasp’s nest in the hedge, among the kalachuchi?

I wanted to walk away, wanted to yell at them to stop,
but also I wanted to watch for the inevitable— for the insects
stung to high aggression to emerge in a fist-shaped cloud:
wildly pulsing like a heart, unmistakeable in their raw anger.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Series Navigation← <em>Amoroso:</em>(poem temporarily hidden by author) →

2 Replies to “Flaming Heart”

  1. A “stunning, bravura perfomance” is what first came to mind as I finished reading this intensely beautiful poem, Luisa. Will have to read it a couple or more times to get beyond being stunned or stung, and to reach toward and grasp the nuances and subtle meanings that just might be there — like blessings from gentle rain (amarparlati).

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