I knew for years the archaic term for refrain—
the part of the song you carry—
is burden. It carries you. Refrain, also, as in
hold back. The burden holds me back.
If I didn’t have you, my father said, passing
the fire, I’d get out to help. It made me
imagine people inside. I lived instead.
Burden, I learned, after the bees began
producing rust-honey in their rust-wax
hives, is also what you feed
into the blast furnace. A burden of rust-honey,
into the furnace shaft. The slag
is gummy. It sounds impossible. It’s also
dull. The house kept burning and we ran
for help. It means we’d stopped to watch.
It sounds impossible. It’s also dull.
Tenderly, though, his running desperate,
yet matching his steps to the child’s.
A sweet smell in the tetanus.
Copyright © 2020 by Zach Savich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.