Invocation to Flame
by Madeleine Wattenberg
Though the gods have been carried off / like slivers of ash / I still strike up my word / In this prayer, the piece of coal / can’t decide whether to burn / or be burned or / if tomorrow the verb will matter / In this prayer, you are next to me / and we stare at the tree’s bodies / made to make smoke / In this prayer / I pray nothing else transforms / because if you see smoke / something made it through / fire without breaking
In this prayer, it’s okay / that what heals / hardens the skin like slag / In this prayer, I don’t ask you to touch me / but I do ask you to string my name / from your teeth / In this prayer, you ask / a question. Isn’t it strange? / but then you fade into the dark / so this prayer is maybe like the others / In this prayer,
the wind shifts direction / and I repeat myself / because repetition is as close / as memory comes / to its cremation / In this prayer, though gunfire / In this prayer, though whip lash / In this prayer, though red iron / my language won’t cauterize / In this prayer, there are ways other / than first nothing, then pain / to measure the body / and the woods / watch lightless / as a closed hand.
Madeleine Wattenberg studies poetry in the MFA program at George Mason University. She also holds an MA in English from the University of Cincinnati. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Whiskey Island, Minola Review, Devil’s Lake, Ninth Letter, and Guernica. She serves as assistant blog editor for So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art.