I thought I would, at long last,
get a quiet love —
a love that, if it will burn,
burns as a warm flame in the hearth
or a bright lantern in the dark,
not a blaze to burn the whole house down.
The trouble is,
I am not made to be quiet.
Silence looks as well on me
as a cheap fool’s suit
that’s four sizes too small,
conspicuous and bursting at the seams
even if I don’t move at all.
And of all I’ve learned, the greatest lesson
is that nothing can be more foolish
than silence — for when has silence
ever saved me from a fire?
So my hair has turned the red-gold shade
of a hot, relentless flame,
to remind me that even though
I’ve escaped so many fires,
part of me will never stop burning;
therefore I must accept that
the roar and crackle of the blaze,
whatever its size or strength,
is the only voice I will ever have.
Thus my love for you is quiet
in only two senses:
it is absolute and steady, sure as stone;
and it is vast, like so much land and sea
that cannot possibly be seen
all at once while you’re in it.
What fire has ever been a match
for even the smallest pebble?
Can even an inferno fill up
the whole of a desert?
What words could I say
that would tell you of this,
and not be quickly swallowed up
as even the volcano’s utterance
is swallowed by the sea?
So if I do not speak, or cannot speak,
know that it isn’t because
I have nothing to say.
Even I don’t know
how many stone temples exist
beyond the horizon,
where the rest of creation
too awaits discovery.
And if I did, I would not live long enough
to teach my flaming tongue
to justly describe them all.