By Lisa Williams Lisa Williams

                                      when I beheld a fire
win out against a hemisphere of shadows.

                           —Inferno, Dante (tr. by Allen Mandelbaum)

If I could hold a fire against
a hemisphere of shadows, hold it
close, not so that damage
finds my hands, but so fire scatters
galvanizing strands, my pupils
responsive to the flames’ unbridled
tutelage as they tell me
nothing but these little jumps
out of your definitions, small
or large or leaping, sinking, slumped...
If I could hold a fire against
that latticework of shadows, standing
close to flames pivoting without
being singed or riveted or convinced
it is the only spirit, like a god,
making me something nailed to wood
then keep my head, then coolly draw
some backbone from that dazzle.

Source: Poetry (November 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2012
 Lisa  Williams


Lisa Williams is the author of Gazelle in the House (New Issues, 2014), Woman Reading to the Sea (W.W. Norton, 2008), winner of the 2007 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and The Hammered Dulcimer (Utah State University, 1998). Her poems also appeared in Best American Erotic Poems (Scribner, 2008).

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Lisa Williams

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Religion, The Spiritual

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.