Christopher Apfelbach

Rookie (July 1,1990 / Burlington, VT)

Winter Fire - Poem by Christopher Apfelbach

Thank goodness for the
childish winter pleasure
of rearing back your head
and bellowing gouts of vapor,

which never gets duller
from year to year.
Winter is the time when even adults
get to masquerade as Smaug,

posing riddles to his unseen visitor;
to empathize with Perseus and St. George's
first big nemeses, who were just trying
to enjoy the flesh of their maidens in peace.

You can feel that cruel, easy surge
of power on any December night
when you plant your foot,
lean forward and exhale from the belly,

melting imaginary knights errant
in just the same way as
Beowulf's dragon melted him
like so much bushy-bearded candle wax.

They're lucky things, those occasions
when we get to don the mantle
of omnipotence for a little while—
to play with fire, as it were;

with half the world searching
for a way to blow off steam,
it's a wonder that so few stop
to consider the literal method.

And yet I can't help but think
that the pyromaniac delight
which infused every breath as a boy
has been tempered somewhat with age,

having learned in chemistry lectures
that winter only reveals the flames
we spew forth invisibly, each of us,
every minute, sleeping and waking:

the inmate dreaming on his cot,
the fisherman near the red dinghy,
the man considering the face of his
lover in the stillness before a kiss.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012



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