What the Fire Conceals from Itself

-for Gaston Bachelard

The fire smiles with its dark teeth and leans
Into the room, talking to itself. Burn
Says the fire to itself, over and over,
And the force of the word lights up the room
Like a fire. Long into the evening
The fire says Burn to itself, that's the open part,
And the walls of the room say the word
Fire. You listen
Sometimes for hours as the fire talks; its blue hands
Wave in the air. For hours you sit in the open and say
Very little: it's hard to talk to a fire
That isn't listening, a fire that talks to itself. Burn
Says the fire, but that's not
What it's thinking; what it's thinking is
What the fire conceals, that's the part that a fire
Burns, hour after hour, one word at a time
Inside itself. Sometimes
You go upstairs to sleep, and in your sleep
The fire is taking guesses: over and over
It says forest to itself, or shovel; it thinks
Shovel is the thing that fire conceals from itself.
Sometimes, in your sleep, you think of
Darkness: it must be thinking darkness.
Very little that a fire can say
Reveals darkness to itself. For hours you say
Darkness, over and over, but
You're only guessing: a fire doesn't think
That way, even in your sleep. Sometimes
The night, your sleep, a fire's guesses. And then the sun
Leaning in when the time is past, one short white blade
Of light on the floor. Downstairs, in the day,
You empty out the ashes, saying forest, or
Shovel: the fire was thinking shovel,
You can see that in the light. But then the hearth is so perfect
After the fire, so clean and quiet and cool. You smile
With your mouth open, and lean back and forth saying
Nothing to yourself. Again and again, after the fire
Is over in your quiet room, you think
Nothing, but it's only a guess.

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