A combustion of words

A poem, an offering

This delightful poem speaks of combustion, our planetary theme for August.


Sara Eliza Johnson

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones

and thirty trillion cells, and each cell

has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine

has thirty-three vertebrae—

if each atom

has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard

are nebulae beginning to star.

If the fruit flies that settle on the orange

on the table rise

like the photons

from a bomb fire miles away,

my thoughts at the moment of explosion

are nails suspended

in a jar of honey.

I peel the orange

for you, spread the honey on your toast.

When our skin touches

our atoms touch, their shadows

merging into a shadow galaxy.

And if echoes are shadows

of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body

is a dark pool of jelly,

if within each cell

drones another cell—

The moment the bomb explodes

the man’s spine bends like its shadow

across the road.

The moment he loses his hearing

I think you are calling me

from across the house

because my ears start to ring.

From the kitchen window

I see the lilacs crackling like static

as if erasing, teleporting,

thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:

tiny flames in the sun.

I lick the knife

and the honey pierces my tongue:

a nail made of light.

My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside

I become fire.

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