The Incident of the New Fires in the Gulf
By Christopher Lirette
Wake up, midwake fever,
there shouldn’t be a carnival in Lent,
there is. And a bonfire.
We have Christmas pine ablaze like votive candles—
don’t play with twigs and fire , but Myopia,
I was pretending to be a priest here
is the new fire thanks be to God .
The trees shudder in their ash, fall prostrate,
some yet just from this continent,
land we call Ashland.
We came flanked,
indigo mypoxia, my dead zone,
where fish are even hungrier than children.
We passed not through the viscous death of water,
but over, now soldered to Eugene Island 206B, platform:
we were at the fire. Unborn as a child,
and I, a priest, sweat. Why would you bring me here? I read
in the cerise night, it’s like Tunguska
on a night like this.
But I want to go to carnival,
Myopia. She muttered the same old prayers:
interdicted, puerile, loud. What do I know
about masks and dancing. What do I know
about shackles dangling on my tiny wrist
like festival booty. Don’t worry your head
she says, she saws and coos: the metal won’t rip
or bunch your little wrist skin.
a messiah at ten. Many of the church
ladies swam to me over days of ocean.
At nine, at least a martyr. Not just here
on the steel island, but every offshore platform
has a sump: where your liquids go,
excreta of every predilection petition or need.
It causes a low concentration
of oxygen in the water, Harbinger. At eleven,
I caught glossolalia and the strangeness of my tongue
frightened me. It was all carnivalesque.
Here like Tunguska no one can know what happens
for 70 years can you believe it? If you must
we can call it an act of God.
Christopher Lirette, native of Chauvin, Louisiana, has been an offshore roustabout, archery instructor, and bartender in addition to writing poems. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Linda, where he will earn an MFA from Cornell in creative writing.
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