Poem in which Prometheus Considers Battery-powered Tea Lights and Forests Burning

A world ablaze: I wanted that
too, but not in the manner of
a raging California brush fire.
Not like the man who drives
into town for his high school
reunion, then spends two days
driving along the Calaveras road,
setting pieces of fast-food paper
wrappers on fire with a cigarette
lighter before chucking them
out the window just to see
what happens. By ablaze
I meant the mind leaping
out of the darkness of its
miserable self-containment
to see how, if heated metals
bent toward the same task,
a bridge might arc over
the yawning gorge. I meant
there was danger, but also
promise of beauty; of ships
that humans could build and fill
with provisions so they might move
forward out of calamity instead of
perishing in the current.
By ablaze, I meant the dance
girls in the village learned
when they were young, balancing
three votive candles, each stuck
inside a glass: one on the head,
the other two carried on each open
palm. The gold flicker on their faces:
something a tea light could never
reproduce. I love the quiet
blue flame of a stove's pilot
light, the brilliant sparks
before molten glass twists into
a clear vessel with an awestruck
mouth. I've walked into cathedrals
just to gaze at rows of lit
tapers in rows above the metal
box, ready to accept a coin or
slip of paper with petitions
for the world not to end in violent
conflagration, but burn as in glow,
as in the Latin ardere, which is
also the root of ardent.

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