THE MAN WHO INVENTED FIRE
A hundred million nights before the first electric chair,
some bored Neanderthal with the luck of a TV detective
knocked two rocks together and made them spark.
Glacial wind pawed the hide hung over the cave-maw.
Maybe an infant cried in the corner, maybe a corpse
settled into its final primordial yoga, staring speechless
at that knotty, starless ceiling. Meanwhile, his wife
tensed as he went on bashing his playthings and grunting
for undivided attention. Come see what I’ve done,
he pleaded in halting vowels. Though I’d like to think
she humored him, commending his vigor, stooping
to examine his creation—that limp bit of flame.
WHEN I WAS A KID, SO MANY DIED
by blundering into pits of quicksand
that I half-expected to sink every time
I navigated my stubby legs
through a hospital parking lot,
a blind alley, a playground after rain
made mud roil off the biblical deep.
And the universal lesson imparted
by so many TV shows: Don’t
struggle, requiring a kind of
Zen-like acceptance of our fate,
the grim knowledge that if it struck,
when it struck, we were fucked
unless a friend was passing by
with a rope coiled over one shoulder,
or a tree branch just happened
to be hanging low enough that it
could be grasped, and bent,
and climbed like a tether to the sky.
How that adjective hung over our daily lives
like a loop of errant mistletoe, year long
those two glib syllables enough to distinguish
between regular Iowa-poor and those failed
dirt farmers down the road whose kids
seemed to know a bit too much about sex,
so poor that all they had was their own
personal spurt of the divine, which turns out
to be you, just you, handed back with the best
parts already spent on God knows what,
the remaining broth so heavy and gilded
that holding it, of course you feel like a king.
About the poet:
Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, “What To Do If You’re Buried Alive”, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy series and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry, Poets.org, Rattle, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many other journals. For more information and at least one embarrassing childhood photo, visit www.troublewithhammers.com.