Thursday, April 7, 2011

Same Fire

Same Fire
Jed Myers

I lost my name half a century before
I was born. Across the Atlantic
a ship came, bearded man on the deck,
same fire in his chest as mine,
preparing himself to give up
whatever can be forsaken, shaved,
stripped, or hidden away nameless
in his nervous marrow, to save
that spinning flame (he doesn’t know
it’s there behind his awareness, the harbor
too bright with churn and wake, tugs
and heaving crowds, too loud
with horses, groaning docks, men
unlashing crates—too much crashing
at his senses, for him to sense
the roar under his breath, the engine
that drives him to this shore). He stands
and waits to answer the cold uniform
questions that will pour through the grating
in the clearinghouse down the ramp,
where he will further unknow himself,
his tongue will fail his grandfather
glaring at him through the east wall,
his curls will splash out from under
the black wool hat, he’ll forget
to mouth the familiar blessing
for this moment of his arrival
in the new wilderness. He’s willing
to lay down the white silk of his ritual
fringes on the concrete, to walk over it
if this is his pathway to the street.
He’s already sold his prayer book
at a dark shop in Leeds, he’s told himself
as if in prayer, over and over,
he comes from nowhere, and practiced
the melodics of all the accents
flooding his ears. The blaring
clanging stomp-march of boots
and carts, hooves, horn-blasts, gears,
government stamps pounding the blotters,
the howls, cheers, and chatter
of the ten thousand tramps
awaiting official passage into chaos
and all its chances, is the music
to which he chants (devout
as the sons of Aaron who disappear
into fire) into the empty
basin of his processor’s face,
his new name, by which he will go
where the fire takes him. Here I am
Great-Grandfather, one burning
branch of your profane devotion.

Same Fire was previously published in California Quarterly


Jed Myers is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. His poems appear in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod International Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and in the new Rose Alley Press anthology of Northwest verse, Many Trails to the Summit. He is a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington.

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