Sunday, April 13, 2008

Coal Fire

I loved this poem as a child and while walking up the stream by Fryman Canyon last week, it came back to me in fragments. I've found it now in its entirety:

Coal Fire

And once in some swamp-forest, these
Were trees.
Before the first fox thought to run,
These dead black chips were one
Green net to hold the sun.
Each leaf in turn was taught the right
Way to drink light;
The twigs were made to learn
How to catch flame and yet not burn;
Branch and then bough began to eat
Their diet of heat.
And so for years, six million years, or higher,
They held that fire.
And here, out of the splinters that remain,
The fire is loose again.
See how its hundred hands reach here and there,
Finger the air;
Then, growing bolder, twisting free,
It fastens on the remnants of the tree
And, one by one,
Consumes them; mounts beyond them; leaps; is done;
And goes back to the sun.


-- Louis Untermeyer

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