Various Kinds of Fire

Two times the shattering racket of the phone
ringing & each time my fish are startled
right out of themselves, gliding silent behind the glass,
disappointed, like I am, with the late night wrong numbers.
Count yourself lucky, Jack, that someone is trying
to reach her sweet midnight voice out to wherever you are
to ask you over or say she’s sorry, one thousand thousand times
sorry & she wants you back. Two times the phone rings
& then I have to put up with the phone not
ringing through the rest of the long & hollow night.
Mathematicians can’t prove that one is the loneliest number
& their order’s great sorrow is that the gods
they pray to can’t even tell us what
we already know. They’d like to sing a song
that could wake up the whole town on Christmas morning
& get us all to look under our prickly green trees
with the soft eyes of love & hope. Who knows
what amazing trinkets we’d find if only someone told us
where to look? Under my sink, dusty but proud,
a stoic fire extinguisher & already I’m starting to feel
safer. Scientists say there are various kinds of fire
but when they burn they all burn the same, a crisis
of individuality so deep & desperate that I’m stunned
speechless. In my world, we would all get our own personal flames,
color coded to match with our shoes or skin tone or
our bestest intentions, & Christmas would be every day,
there’d be presents every day & when the phone rang
it would always, always, be for you.

FROM Honorary Astronaut
(Ghost Road Press, 2008)
REPRINTED WITH THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION

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