Mere Wax and Flame

A quick hiss
and the match flares,
a violent transformation
of earth into light
before the fall 
into a domesticated glow.
I touch the match 
to a candle, then lift it
away watching the flame
leap into smoke.
I lay the burnt match
like an offering
upon the table,
then turn to watch 
the flame dance the shadows
about the candle’s aureole.
The room vanishes
behind the flames flicker:
the dark’s made darker
by the flame’s small light.
A spelunker into a past
which is more my own
than some ancestral
rite of culture,
I explore the shadows:
sliding through the flame,
my eye, like a hand 
soft along a cave’s wall,
curves deeper with each
bend and twist in the fire.
What will I find?
Some mythic transformation
like the caves of Lascaux, 
Or shadows dancing
before a perplexed Plato,
or just the blind dazzle
in the glass of Sainte-Chapelle
radiating a deeper vision?
Yet, there’s no shaman
chanting in the candle’s wax
No paintings on these walls
of fire – – frustrated and a bit
disappointed, I snuff the flame
between forefinger and thumb – –
a burning residue of wax and ash
quickly cools coating, as in an alchemical
transformation – – in an ephemera
of difference – – an inverse molding 
of my fingerprint’s swirl, quickly
crushed and discarded.
What has this exercise brought
other than a slightly burned
finger and mythic pretensions?
What was in the flame
was the flame and whatever
was in me:  the flame burned;
I reached within 
by drawing into the fire,
desiring the fire:  to exist
in its annihilation.
To be the other:
the jaguar peering
between jungle leaves,
preparing to pounce,
the tension and terror,
the sharp apprehension of decision,
any decision, to leap or walk
away, like a tooth at the neck – –
the warm tang of appetite
enough for now, which is all.
The desire, the future,
constructed and reconstructed,
shapes the present.
Like the still warm wax
at finger’s  end can be
peeled back and molded, 
transformed from its thin
replicating skin into something
beyond the remains of
mere wax and flame.
But in the end – – the transformation 
was inconsequential- – me into me,
all else a romantic projection.
As Nietzsche said, what you see
in the abyss is yourself – –
Scary thought – – 
especially when what you see
is  the abyss.  Nothing
from nothing, and all that – –
Whatever “that “ means – –
The paradox of smoke without fire:
The candle silent, the moonlight whispers 
between the smoke’s last curls.
I sit in the dark, quietly.
The shadows grow and take shape
like clouds floating above a field,
a tumult of incoherence 
which coheres, nevertheless,
to the dust of the thoughts
we play across.

(from Ambiguous Demarcation, 1997)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.