This is Not a Metaphor

Starting a fire is easy
especially when a kind someone has arranged the wood
and twigs and newspapers just so, and opened the flue
which is the part you definitely did not know how to do

Especially when you have a box of sturdy green-tipped matches
that light on the first strike
Not the flimsy matches discovered in the back of a drawer
in a matchbook you took from a restaurant
years ago, just as a souvenir since you don’t smoke
Those matches never work,
particularly when you’re trying to light
birthday candles, so don’t even bother

What’s significantly more challenging
is keeping the fire going
You can’t just leave it alone all night
You have to poke it, help the logs shift
into their proper places
You have to add a log or two or three, but make sure to leave
room between the logs for the fire to breathe
which you learned about from a poem
of all places

Occasionally you can crumple up the newspaper sections
that you brought with you and toss those in and watch the
fire grow wild for an instant and then settle down
You marvel at the warmth of the chair
where you are sitting and of the left side of your face
and your body

When you suddenly realize, close to midnight,
that only two charred pieces of wood remain
you feel inexplicably proud–as if you consumed the wood,
rather than the fire burning it down

You rearrange the last half-burned log
so it will sit squarely in the fire, and
know that you will see this through

In the morning, you will sweep the ashes
looking for clues of what once
was there

January 18, 2019

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