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Fire Sermon


In the spongy Louisiana summers

our air-conditioned rooms

seal us off as effectively

as Dante's fiery tombs

confined the dead.  In bygone days

fans kept away the flies

while deep piazzas and 12-foot ceilings

let the burning rise.


By August, every step outdoors

is penance.  The leaden cope

of humid weather presses

the lungs.  Hair turns to rope,

and Heat, the summer devil

whose name is legion, lies

in wait on the pavement, singing

Let the burning rise.


Eventually the body

becomes too hot to wear.

We bury the dead above ground

hoping to give them air.

In time the bones are swept away

and the names on tombs are lies.

Let me ride in the boat of Osiris.

Let the burning rise.


Gail White



1997; originally printed in American
Poets & Poetry
.  Reprinted by permission
of the author.

by Grapholina

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