Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Burning Tongue


The Burning Tongue
There is a burning that
makes the same smoke
from flower or flesh.
Air is dead.
Sound will not carry.
Words will not form
on a tongue blackened by 
summer's brass palm, for weeks
held radiant over earth's dry mouth.

Heat is a cloud-killer, builder
of invincible domes in steelmelt
sky. Dust catches fire.
Only the insect machines
still rattle. Yet every morning
in the stillborn dawn
there is a gasp of birdsong,
begging and faint, staccato, sharp,
freezingly sweet. 
In fever dreams
I gasp along, for every note,
for any word, for a charm
to make this yield
of burning tongues
sing out
in oldest music, 
wilder words,
the sparking chant

that death-heat kills even itself,
that someday it might
still be worth the parch

of trying to keep living.

July 2022

posted for earthweal

Images: Dead Woman's Crossing, Oklahoma  by Nathan Gunter   Fair Use
L'oiseau blue,© Marc Chagall 1968     Fair Use


  1. I can feel the heat, which has arrived here finally too. I love early morning birdsong, such a gift of hope and sweetness before even the birds find some shade to hide in. I like "In fever dreams, I gasp along...."

  2. "Heat is a cloud-killer, builder
    of invincible domes in steelmelt
    sky. Dust catches fire."
    A poem that brings to mind last summer in BC....heat domes and whole towns destroyed by fire.
    A poem rich in imagery and uncompromising in its language...JIM

  3. this is the color and barren I imagine from Delaney's Dhalgren. that scant hope in the penultimate stanza is faint support for the final line. It also makes me remember Matt Groening's cartoon (pre-Simpson's), Life is Hell, and the timeline with infinity to the left, life now, and infinity to the right. May as well keep going in the now; forever can wait for us another day ~

  4. Wild summer for this moment means heat everywhere - Portugal, London, Shanghai, eastern Russia, the San Fernando Valley, Phoenix, Houston, Oklahoma City, Orlando -- even Paraguay in South America where it's supposed to be winter. Heat is the overgrown garden right now, and it bears down just like wildfire. You capture the visceral broil of it and speak for all of life flailing for purchase beneath its "brass palm." This is the world we forgot scrolling the feed, come to eat now. A savage wilderness, maybe there still be words for it in the world's mouth. for a life "still worth living." In these withering hours, that's so hard to see, hear, sing.

  5. I've been unable to comment on your (and many others') posts, but a convoluted search told me to try incognito mode and it works! at least right now.

    Your desert of fever dreams is the language of so much of the earth right now. The line that particularly embodies that for me is "Dust catches fire". What an image.

  6. Such oppressive heat! I am sure you long for rain. Hard to pick out a favourite line here, but I do love 'builder
    of invincible domes in steelmelt
    sky.' - I can picture and feel this.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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