Smoke from a massive fire was blowing across the river
into the city: lobbies of apartment buildings,
inner rooms of doctors’ offices.

The EKG technician said she could smell it,
acrid savor not of wood but metal,
tang of things burning that ought not to burn.

The smoke smell scorched the mood
of people waiting to cross Columbus Circle:
we looked at one another

with shared knowledge that also contained questions.
What kind of bed had each of us climbed out of
less than an hour before?

Love is a burning of things that ought to burn,
that are irresistibly drawn toward a consuming flame—
the merging and melting of what thirsts to merge and melt.

Not that combustion isn’t painful.
You cannot go back to what you were before.
There are chemical alterations.

There are invisible scars.
There is a source of heat, a power, a wind.
Smoke freighted the raw January morning.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 10, on page 30
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