Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Fire
By Eunice Tietjens
 
LOVE, let us light
A fire tonight,
A wood fire on the hearth.
 
With torn and living tongues the flames leap.
Hungrily        5
They catch and lift, to beat their sudden wings
Toward freedom and the sky.
The hot wood sings
And crackles in a pungent ecstasy
That seems half pain of death, and half a vast        10
Triumphant exultation of release
That its slow life-time of lethargic peace
Should come to this wild rapture at the last.
 
We watch it idly, and our casual speech
Drops slowly into silence.        15
Something stirs and struggles in me,
Something out of reach
Of surface thoughts, a slow and formless thing—
Not I, but a dim memory
Born of the dead behind me. In my blood        20
The blind race turns, groping and faltering.
 
Desires
Only half glimpsed, not understood,
Stir me and shake me. Fires
Answer the fire, and vague shapes pass        25
Like shapes of wind across the grass.
 
The red flames catch and lift,
Roaring and sucking in a furious blaze;
And a strange, swift
Hunger for violence is in me. My blood pounds        30
With a dark memory of age-old days,
And mad red nights I never knew,
When the dead in me lived, and horrid sounds
Broke from their furry throats.
In drunken rounds,        35
Blood-crazed, they danced before the leaping flames,
While something twisted in the fire….
 
Now as the flames mount higher
Strange pictures pass. I cannot see them quite
And yet I feel them.
                    I am in a dread
        40
Dark temple, and I beat my head
In maddened rite,
Before the red-hot belly of a god
Who eats his worshippers….
                            This is a funeral pyre
And one lies dead        45
Who was my life. The fat smoke curls and eddies,
Beckoning suttee….
                    But the moment slips
To Bacchanalian revels—quick hot lips
And leaping limbs, lit by the glare
Of human torches….        50
 
A sudden spark
Goes crackling upward, followed by a shower;
And I am in the hills, cool hills and dark,
Primeval as the fire. The beacon flare
Leaps in a roaring tower,        55
Spattering in sparks among the stars
Tales of wild wars.
And on a distant crest
Its mate makes answer….
 
But the embers gleam        60
Like molten metal steaming at a forge,
Where with rough jest
Great lusty fellows
Ply the roaring bellows,
And clang the song of labor—and the dream        65
Man builds in metal….
 
Now the red flame steadies.
Softly and quietly it burns,
Purring, and its embers wear
A friendly and domestic air.        70
 
This is the hearth-fire—home and peace at last.
Comfort and safety are attendant here.
The primal fear
Is shut away, to whistle in the blast
Beyond the doorway where the shadows twine.        75
The fire is safety, and the fire is home,
Light, warmth and food. Here careless children come
Filling the place with laughter;
And after
Men make good council-talk, and old men spin,        80
With that great quiet of the wise,
Tales of dead beauty, and of dying eyes.
 
The fire is drooping now. A log falls in
Softly upon itself, like one grown tired
With ecstasy. The lithe tongues sink        85
In ash and ember:
And something I remember
From ages gone—and yet I cannot think—
Some secret of the end,
Of earth grown old, and death turned friend,        90
And man who passes
Like flame, like light, like wind across the grasses.
 
Ah, what was that? A sudden terror sped
Behind me in the shadows. I am cold;
And I should like your hand to hold        95
Now that the fire is dead.
Love, light the lamp, and come away to bed.
Fire is a strange thing, burning in your head.
 
 
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