The world is consumed in invisible flame, devoured
by an inward law: the indivisible eternal hour
of eternal death. Life is ruins.
Swallowed by the earth,
whose growing vines clutch and draw
the living toward its open jaws.

Can you see?
The living fire that endures, the never-ending
blaze—forge-work of a decaying heart?
All the world is flame.
Persisting, consisting, in always-death;
bearing mortal sons to fuel its perseverance.

We, we sons, with our terrible desire.
The breathless need, the airless heat, learned
in a subterranean hearth. The dark fire that burns
beneath the ribcage of the blood-soaked earth.
Blood in our veins, circulating the physical want—
blood animating the flesh, keeping it hot.

We who eat to sustain the heat, who break flesh
and bone on white teeth. Who must eat
— can we be blamed?—
who must consume with ashen faces.
Death offered from open hands to open mouths;
death in libation to the uncompromising law.

Dread law, appalling logic.
The marrow of the earth is death—
a pale flame. And we daily take
the deadly turn. Participate
in the mysterious familiar rite.
We who daily die: covered in blood.

We, clothed in the flesh of the sustaining fire,
comprised of life’s unfailing promise to end,
and glittering in the soft angles of desire.
Draw me close and see—touch and taste, beneath
the skin, the cauterizing wound, felt in heat.
The consuming measure that shivers and seethes.

We do not rise (you and I).
We with patient gestures slowly descend,
and caress the waking death that lives within,
the knotted fire, the ancient covenant,
sinking deeper with palatable nearness.
All the world is fire.

Anne M. Carpenter