Amherst Magazine

Blue Flame

February 2003

When the sun is rising and my seven year old
catches it through the trees, and we sit
at the table, his slow oatmeal, my slow jam
and coffee, a dull magenta aching
in the horizon’s nook, and a sharp
steel-eyed blue above it,
and blue the hottest part of the flame,
I know we live under the light touch

of heaven’s scam. Or is it our own
tempering, heaven’s stain?
Something chars us down from there:
The day comes soft shoeing,
all doe-eyed, the womb’s wonder
of the sky. But in its slow time,
what will the battered
yoke of the dawn
sizzle in each emptying house?

In a minute, from the microwave,
the green digital flash of a school day.

All is quiet here, but somewhere
the flick of a candle sears
through rafters. Somewhere,
half a day and half the world away,
the red flag of morning snaps
at half-mast above our own
holy fire as it conjugates itself
across a cross-less altar.
Not here. Not now. It is, after all,

Ohio, and given the state of things,
the thermometer quivers into single
digits and everything slips
to its opposite. Cold burns.
The morning’s hot celestial wax
drips into the seal of our
rushed footprints. In the boy-warmth

of the kitchen, absent for a moment,
the wet of our breath against glass,
the stirred bowl, this daily crust.

—Stephen Haven ’79

From Haven’s poetry collection Dust and Bread (2008, Turning Point). Reprinted with permission.