In the crumbling storybook of morality tales,
little Harriet plays with matches and catches fire.
Her cats cry as her body becomes ash, their tears
pooling, putting her out too late: in the tinted picture
the flames extend from her back, incendiary wings.
As a child, you read this story again and again.
Lambent, from the Latin, lambere, which means
to lick: flame licking your ankles, faithful as
an animal—so loving, it wants to consume you.
The old cliché: tongues of flame, loving our flesh
to blackened bone. To become a glowing column
of tangerine and gold, festival-colored and darkly
smoking: the oaken dream of a carven effigy,
your wooden life. A nightmare, wrapped in sheer
and brightly shining bolts of fire. You may turn
and turn, but you cannot extinguish it: let it saint
you, this fierce and lively pillar of burning.