The woodstove is banked to last the night,
its slim legs, like an elegant dog’s, stand obediently
on the tile floor while in its belly a muffled tumult
cries like wind keening through the hemlocks.
Human nature to sleep by fire, and human nature
to be sleepless by it too. I get up to watch
the blue flames finger soft chambers in the wood
while the coals swell with scintillating breaths.
What made Rousseau once observe that dogs will not
build fires? (And further, that in the pleasing warmth
of a fire already started, they will not add wood?)
What is it to be human? To forge connection,
to make interpretations of fire and contain them
in a little iron stove? And what is it to be fire?
To burn with indifference, to consume
the skin of the arm as easily as the bark of a log.
Sleepy warmth begins to fill the room in which
life wants to live and fire wants to burn,
the room which in the morning
will hold a fire changed to cooling ash.
Outside, smoke escapes and for an instant
mirrors nature too, the way falling snow
reveals the wind’s mind, and change of mind,
before world and mind grow inscrutable again.