VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Duane Vorhees

SCENIC

Yesterday I was an open field,

cosmos-filled.

Distant horizons misted in all directions.

The face of the early-summer sun wore its smiling-every-day forecast.

(You said the sight of my noontime sundial made you giggle and blush.)

And the wind combed through my hair and through the chickadees’ pinions.

I had many solstices ahead.

Today I am a closed room. It is airless.

(You claimed you got bored winding my grandfather’s clock.)

The vases are empty, the dark curtains drawn against winter’s albino glare,

and the parakeets and hair molted long ago.

I’ve left many solstices behind.

Tomorrow soon I’ll be an ocean.

30 YEARS’ WAR

I mistook silence for license.

Thus began our war of attrition.

I multiplied my divisions,

you withdrew and withdrew

behind towers and minefields

(addictions, subtractions).

The assault against inaction

saw stalemate not ceasefire.

RULE UNDER LAW

Riding my circuit in the bayou

I wondered what made the mama-san

tout your assets and value so much.

But I understood why when I saw you,

O, titular Queen of Amazons!

And then you dubbed me the Hanging Judge

after we retired to our chamber.

The unthroned queen and the disrobed judge

weighed majesty and jurisprudence

and ruled that no appeal from danger

and no loss of honor or of blood

would overrule our love’s innocence.

In the regular session to come,

accepting only the guilty pleas,

we presided over the night court.

The scale of justice under our thumbs,

we sentenced love’s arsonists and thieves

to life at hard labor, no parole.

LOVE AND SCIENCE

Wasn’t it Einstein

who gave precision

to relativity?

They say a life without love is a cataclysm.

Why didn’t Einstein

make love

less variable?

Wasn’t it Newton

who took force

from an apple?

The first discovery of love is like baptism.

Why couldn’t Newton

delineate

passion’s energy?

Wasn’t it Fleming

who wrested the cure

from the mold?

The loss of ardor is psychic catastrophe.

Did Fleming know

there is no relief

from lust?

Didn’t Einstein

define love as

space, time, and power?

The persistence of such love is a masterpiece.

Didn’t he actually posit Eros

as mutual carnality squared?

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