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Do not yell fire but do embody it


The flat tire gets our attention

and so we must get someone else’s

in the rain.  At least we are communicating,

however selfishly.  Smoke is one way

to send a signal, but people get the wrong idea

and start rushing for the wings,

though not the feathered ones, not the birds’.

The law says we cannot yell “fire” in a crowded room,

but what if it is our heart doing all the shouting?

Love, then, is legislatively out of the question.

Before the surgery, my father’s heart was shouting

something like fire

and my mother was shouting about emergency

and the ambulance was shouting, Look at me!

which is the same thing I shouted all my life

though no one shushes an ambulance.

What’s triage mean to you and don’t say tree?

Hard to discern the good noise from the bad

ears.  The donut is the most real wheel

because it doesn’t fit.  It wants to be human.

The copier says ditto one million times

and then realizes it has something new to say.

All the papers come out gray.  Then blue.

We are not out of toner, says the machine,

we are out of meaning.  Now I believe

the me in my I.D. is more me than me.

Must be the smudges.  Must be the little box

inside which my head rests wholeheartedly.

I was born again but never received a certificate

from God’s people and am thus skeptical,

so I put my belief in the administration

because it believes in my birthday but not

the celebration.  The unicorn falls in love

with the steeple but has problems with the church.

He has crippling bouts of self-doubt.

He hasn’t seen a real rainbow in years.

At some point, I have to come back down,

says the hang-glider above the volcano,

but not here.  At some point we must admit

we are the unicorn and the toner

and my father’s heart is my mother’s shouting,

and the volcano is not angry, at least not at us.

It has been silent for two thousand years

and now, please, it has something to say.

Stephen Morrow