A Blackened Pot, a Bone, a Pair of Pliers

Of all the shards we salvaged from the fire
One shined among the ashes in my palm:
A crystal lens that held the world entire

Within its lucid eye. I held it higher,
And viewed the wreckage in its sooty realm,
And all the shards we salvaged from the fire:

Odd lumps of metal, burnt piano wire
(The wood and ivory vanished in the kiln),
This crystal lens that held the world entire—

A phoenix eye that glittered in the pyre
To witness all it once had played on film
Reduced to shards we salvaged from the fire:

A blackened pot, a bone, a pair of pliers,
The barrel of a gun; and in my palm,
This crystal lens. I held the world entire

Refracted there; I held it to the fiery
Sun above the city, bright and calm,
Relighting what we salvaged from the fire:
A crystal lens that held the world entire.

Somehow I let the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Firestorm (which burned through at 2000 degrees on October 21, 1991) pass without posting any of my post-fire poems. Now the situation is rectified. The villanelle: It seems to me this obsessive, repetitive form reflects the obsessive, repetitive revisiting of loss we humans go through. The crystal lens was all that was left of a home movie projector. This poem first appeared in Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Volume 5:2004.

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4 thoughts on “A Blackened Pot, a Bone, a Pair of Pliers

  1. Funny, today I was thinking of starting a blog on poetry – instead of putting my poetry thoughts on FB – and googled you to get to your site to see who hosts yours, and this poem came up. It’s one of yours that I always remember and think of as it is so technically accomplished while still being very moving. Did I say that right? Anyway, I really like villanelles.

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