Little Furnace

By Brenda Hillman b. 1951 Brenda Hillman
—Once more the poem woke me up,   
the dark poem. I was ready for it;   
he was sleeping,   
and across the cabin, the small furnace   
lit and re-lit itself—the flame a yellow   
      “tongue” again, the metal benignly   
hard again;   

and a thousand insects outside called   
      and made me nothing;   
moonlight streamed inside as if it had been ...   
I looked around, I thought of the lower wisdom,   
spirit held by matter:   
      Mary, white as a sand dollar,   

and Christ, his sticky halo tilted—   
      oh, to get behind it!   
The world had been created to comprehend itself   

as matter: table, the torn
veils of spiders ... Even consciousness—   
missing my love—   

was matter, the metal box of a furnace.   
As the obligated flame, so burned my life ...   
What is the meaning of this suffering I asked   
and the voice—not Christ but between us—   
said you are the meaning.   

No no, I replied, That   
is the shape, what is the meaning.   
You are the meaning, it said—

Brenda Hillman, “Little Furnace,” from Bright Existence. Copyright © 1993 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Bright Existence (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)

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Poet Brenda Hillman b. 1951


Subjects Religion

 Brenda  Hillman


One of contemporary poetry’s most eclectic and formally innovative writers, Brenda Hillman is known for poems that draw on elements of found texts and document, personal meditation, observation, and literary theory. Often described as “sensuous” and “luminescent,” Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice, while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, . . .

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SUBJECT Religion


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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