Shaking the Flame


I saw a negro through a green
wire screen
and caught his silver eye;
I spread my fingers red with light
to call him in — but a wind came
shaking the flame.

A door slams shut —
the flame bends and gutters.
What refrain does the flame sing within its purple sheath?
Again and again I reach in through the screen
but wind breath cuts like a clean and molten
magpie’s song after rain.

The song the flame utters is sometimes
glimpsed in an eye
or that knowing, solid eye, out of time,
is seen in the flame,
if you stare and burn
without looking away.

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