Heretic's Prayer by Matthew Hummer

Sitting at a fire beneath the sycamore,
Karen asked if I remembered the day 
I was born. “The day or the experience?”
“No, not the experience.”

                                     I added a log 
and crumpled newspaper—fire 
for my birthday and some stars through 
naked twigs. Izabella, who turned
eight the day before, came out— 
using the flashlight on the emergency, 
crank-up radio—to see the rabbits 
in cages. She switched the radio on
and staticky voices chattered in the swale
between vinyl homes. 

                                 The fire 
in the black cauldron, antique gift
from Romaine, who used it for flowers, 
birthed sparks zigzagging 
into the air below the web of sycamore
branches. Coals popped, but damp 
night snuffed stray embers—
Gnostic symbol for the soul. Fire 
from fire and back to fire. Not 
what Kierkegaard said: born 
from nothing, no history, into history 
and bound by love beyond death: 

the way we love our pets and want 
them to live forever in animal heaven. 
Why I shoveled the pink-skinned, miscarried 
rabbit fetuses into the garden, 
said a prayer, and put a red rock 
over their grave—to keep the dog 
from digging. (We didn’t know Lucky 
was a girl and Luna was a boy. We put 
them in a garage pen together 
when the weather had turned rock cold.

The slow, crackling consumption of logs. 
The sizzle of pine tar like chicken 
skin on the grill. Orange pulsing, 
glyphs communicating words I can’t 
read. A syntactical energy as sure 
and indiscipherable as the radio static. 
Shipwrecked in space. Eminating 
from the blue core of low-flickering 
heat. Feeding on fuel at the center; 
flicking into black night. A spark 
clings to the ash that bears it up. 
An upside-down meteor shower— 
crackling logs, char and split.  
Souls, offspring of the sun, reborn.

Matthew Hummer is a teacher, writer, and painter living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He holds an MFA from the University of the South and an MA in Classics from Villanova. Lalitamba, The Indian Review, and Yemassee have recently published his work. His first published artwork will appear in the Naussau Review in 2019. 

return to poetry                 home