Homo Pyrotechnicus

 

The most ancient of our human skills,
a glow, begun in kindling, wakes in flame.
Describing it we say, "it comes to life,"
when we speak of life we say, "a spark."
Were you taught by parent, or shaman,
at a camp, your hearth at home, a beach at night?
Can you recall the first amazing tongue
springing from a log in heat and light?

A young man and his pretty long-haired wife,
their two sons, her sister and her boy,
drove from Miami to the Everglades.
They dance together on the grass to tunes
that samba from the Chevy's open doors.
She calls, "I'll race you!" to the boys, and runs
laughing, under trees, her black hair blown.
In their car and brand-new nylon tent
they could be a tribe as old as time.

Evening comes, the children hunt for wood
in the mangrove and palmetto scrub.
They come back bravely, proudly dragging fuel:
branches twice their height, and sticks and cones.
"I will show you how to make a fire,"
he says. The mystery is taught again.

On this planet, there are places still
where life depends upon this primal skill.
And what if we, or our grandchildren, see
an Armageddon, or a new Ice Age?
Prometheus' gift defends against the dark.
The holy, stolen power warms our hearth.

"I will show you how to make a fire."
One boy takes a branch with glowing end
and swings it in the dark, drawing arcs
and curling lines and fiery knots,
running, laughing in the night,
invisible except for streaming light.
"Look, fireworks!" he shouts, "it's fireworks!"
and a new initiate is made.

Sheri L. Lohr
1/21/2000

Everglades Poems

 Everglades ballad  In the Pines  Homo Pyrotechnicus  Watching the Shuttle 
 The Purple Gallinule  Piney Woods  Sugar  Mosquitoes  Nothing Out There