The Fire of Learning

after Ilya Kaminsky, Author’s Prayer

By Mason Hap


To understand their words, you need to forget

the blazing beat of your chest.


The self-taught rhythm, a single ember keeping the flame alive.

Life of language, with smoke that squeezes one’s personal circle.


To understand their phrases, you need to char this tiger strength shadow

choking your words and reaching for alien ones,


that seem to hum a love song

without letting out a note.


I am listening to their phrases. They twirl at a distance,

ribbons following the wind, dressed in peacock-like hues that avert the eyes.


Idle in this chamber,

sounds bounce off thick concrete,


a self-taught rhythm, invading

and edging only to reach my ears


while language waits outside the door.

Messy but simple.


There is the me, outside with charred shadows

and there is the me, who only knows the fear of scorching, hot steps.

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