For Agni

Who knows the language of fire?
The patterns that the smoke weaves,
the crackle of the flames,
the glow of the embers,
the scent of things burning,
the flush of heat on your flesh?
What bard is there who can recite the poems,
compose the songs,
chant the histories of fire:
Pompeii 79 C.E.
Chicago 1871
Shanghai 1894
Rome 64 C.E.
London 1666
Turku 1827
San Francisco 1906
Cuyahoga River 1962
Moscow 1547
Constantinople 406 C.E.
Peshtigo 1871
Atlanta 1864
Tokyo 1923
Karachi 2012
There is a beauty to fire that
nothing can surpass:
the play of color in the flames
— orange white blue red yellow green —
rivals the dank and drowned colors of any rain-spawned bow,
and where is there in all the world
a more intoxicating perfume
than the scent of wood and herbs
slowly being rendered to ash?
The talent it takes for mortal hands
to skillfully gather tinder, birth the single spark that catches,
then build a careful scaffold of wood,
a mound of coal,
or other such fuel as you would give it
is as much an act of worship,
if unknowing,
than simple necessity.
With me, you cook your food,
warm your home, forge steel, fire clay,
make light in the darkest night.
Without me: darkness, hunger, starvation.
So give me your hands, your skill, your time, your efforts,
and build me my perishable temples,
and offer me your gifts,
and feed me.

[Poet and novelist Jennifer Lawrence just released her first poetry collection, Listening For Their Voices, as well as two novels, Fire on the Mountain and Black Pinions. All three are available through Lulu.]