Little Furnace

—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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