by Mary Oliver
That winter it seemed the city
was always burning–night after night
the flames leaped, the ladders pitched forward.
Scorched but alive, the homeless wailed
as they ran for the cold streets.
That winter my mind had turned around,
shedding, like leaves,
its bolts of information–
drilling down, through history,
toward my motionless heart.
Those days I was willing, but frightened.
What I mean is, I wanted to live my life but I
didn’t want to do what I had to do
to go on, which was: to go back.
All winter the fires kept burning,
the smoke swirled, the flames grew hotter.
I began to curse, to stumble and choke
Everything, solemnly, drove me toward it–
the crying out, that’s so hard to do,
Then over my head the red timbers floated,
my feet were slippers of fire, my
voice crashed at the truth, my fist
smashed at the flames to find the door–
wicked and sad, mortal and bearable,
it fell open forever as I burned.