The P Must Be On Fire
by Robert Vivian

A poem came for me, I didn’t have enough arms to hold it, the poem ran and leapt up my whole body, my least eyelash and follicle that fell away without a sound, the poem hid when the mail carrier came, the poem slinked under the bed, the poem sheltered in place, the poem listened in the dark in the dark of itself like a wild animal, a new creation of owl whose eyes reflect the moon, the poem knew of itself a breeze and a wonder and a blissful not-knowing, the poem got on its knees in a deep emerald forest carpeted by moss and whispered holy gibberish to the 4 directions, the poem prayed knuckle-bound to the earth beholden only to sky and soaring and ever drifting, the poem made a temple of balsa wood and then smashed it all up to make a fire so the poem burned and offered itself in stark immolation, the poem burned and burned and burned and burrowed setting fire to itself again and again and again so that the first line of the poem was/is, I set fire to myself and the second line was/is, So that you would have a fire to see by the line (once stricken, then re-written), Burn with me, be a human bonfire, bring S’mores if you like, a candle, dripping brook trout halved like apples, bring old love letters, bring promissory notes, bring checks and diaries and index cards, I will burn them all—and the name of the poem is Ashes, no, it is Smoldering, the poem is called Sunrise And The Rising Of Lyrical Vapors, no, the poem is simply called Poem though the P must be on fire and the O weightless and winged, the E electrically charged and the M a kind of mother murmuring, but the P must burn eternally in your inner membranes dwelling there as a kind of trembling, a humming, the secret place where you go to listen before you can say anything—so the poem came for me so that I almost couldn’t bear it, almost whispered back as the black ink slowly took flame and lit up the page.

photo: Alison Scarpulla

Robert Vivian’s latest book is All I Feel Is Rivers, just out with the University of Nebraska Press.