“I was glad the colonel had quit talking about fire.
That had nothing to do with me.”
To the White Sea
by James Dickey
Fire on fuel feeds better igniting from outside to in;
Catches its victim unaware of its preternatural speed.
Not talking now, the colonel’s words echo in my brain.
Fire surrounds my escape, but so far igniting no flesh,
No tendon nor bone: never will my butt sizzle or pop
In fire’s sling. Carnage may derange my war dreams,
Sure, but my cortical neurons pulse coolly in obedience.
Others of my mess felt heat flare their fine hairs; saw
Skin crack, curl; tasted death’s entreaty in a dry mouth,
As fire followed in faith its only rules: fuel, oxygen and
A combustion source; speed to furnace heat; unerring
Incineration of its object; and, if never confined,
Destined to end its race as black, depleted breath.
For its light, alone first in speed through the universe,
This new intensity is now certain to power my sinews,
New life streams into my old synapses, forcing danger
And light to fill my mind, hurtling above fires of Tokyo,
As I steal my way toward salvation at magnetic north.