What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire —Stanley Kunitz
As if the sin of Adam took its toll
on trees, the maples stricken with the fall
burn in their sins. Red passion and proud gold,
their vanities float down like scraps of flame.
Lives ago, we burned them—garden stubble
and leaves—the yard’s year gone in a smoky plume
curling to heaven. Now the tumulus
of compost seethes in its center, simmers, mulls.
We rake the piles. The crickets’ wings rehearse
desire, desire, slowing as daylight’s slant
unwarms the world. We feel it too, the chill,
the ache displacing older, wilder want:
Leaf into loam, red giant to black hole,
lust into languor, everything that burns
burns out: the dust, the gas, the acrid smell,
the end of the matter. All our burning’s doomed,
even these fires where maple trees are found
still ardent after years, still unconsumed.
by Maryann Corbett, first published in Christianity and Literature. Appears in the book Breath Control and the anthology Imago Dei.
Editor’s Note: The slant rhyme and controlled meter emphasize the underlying yearning toward an emotional footprint, so adroitly described within this poem.