This is death and air
the absence of sufficient prayer
the self immolation of Thich Quang Duc in Ho Chi Minh
City, doused in gasoline,
then the match, the wind, the air, the smoke, the fire.
This is the soul’s whistling
over the Vietnamese rooftops, over the fathers and daughters
over the singed and the poor.
This is about campfires, suburban fires made by husbands
nearly dead or the soldier
poet with the fire inside,
the pyromaniac down
the block, and the Bolivian
student on the cusp of his
own little revolution.
Some fires take a long time to blossom.
Chances are high you will not even notice the smoke.
Once, I broke down on the couch.
I thought I was going to die.
This is different than the time I broke down
in front of my father at nineteen because
I did not want to die. My father saved me that night.
What if the dead knew about each of our dreams?
What if they forgave you?
What if we knew the secrets of all the city’s acoustics?
Would it matter if I told you I know nothing,
that there is no thing I want to tell you more than
how much I have fallen in love with this world,
all of its fires, its failures, its faith,
how I love all of your past fires, now ash?
Lee Herrick is the author of two books, Gardening Secrets of the Dead (WordTech Editions , 2012) and This Many Miles from Desire (WordTech Editions, 2007). His poems have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies, including The Bloomsbury Review, ZYZZYVA, Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California’s Great Central Valley, 2nd edition, and Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, among others. Born in Daejeon, South and adopted at ten months old, he lives in Fresno, California and teaches at Fresno City College and in the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.