By Night with Torch and Spear
That fire at the mouth of the flare stack rising more than three-hundred feet above the refinery contorts as it feeds on the invisible current of methane produced by the oil's distillation process like a monster, the nonstop spasm of it lumbering upwards into the dark Newark night like a sack made of orange parachute fabric an awkward number of gorillas get it on in. I would worship it. The motion, the heat, the unapologetic knack of the element to yank the appliance plug from its outlet, filling the big blue business- suite of my head with nothing but its own wordlessness and light. Not now, not knowing what I can't unknow, but back on the grasslands before we ever came to harness it I would bow down among the seething life of that primitive interior and worship the fire taking one bright liberty after another. Done listening to fellow passengers tweaking the fine points. Done rubbing the dead end of thinking like a spent torch against the cave's painted walls to make it burn better. As the train slows down as the track curves around the body of water the fire reflects in, it is a form of worship. What is it in me that hasn't yet been killed with reason, habit, through long atrophy or copied so beyond its master it parses like the last will and testament of a moth- eaten cardigan? It dumps its nice adrenaline into my system nights I hear the crisp steps of deer on fallen leaves and stop or when looking up beneath baroque snow or when I lean over the banister along the border of a strong waterfall. All good and well. But the endless hyperactive plumage exploding from this toxic aviary, this sun of industry descended from the lightning strike, obscures its diabolism with a Vegas brightness so that what there is to fear in it instead excites me up a biochemical peak from the far side of which my own voice, grizzled with a wisdom unknown to me in waking life, reminds me of the conjuror who grew distraught because he sensed the forces he had stirred up with his art would not be mastered by it. It rattles tomorrow's paperwork where it hangs from the branches of the ancient timber trees. It messes with my reception, whereas I do not wish my reception to be messed with. It tells me to be careful with my worship—that if this, too, is a resource, then they have ways to tap it.
Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Donnelly. Used with permission of the author.