Changing Places in the Fire

Excerpt from Li-Young Lee’s long poem Changing Places in the Fire.
There are words, I say,

and there is The Word.

Every word is a fluctuating flame

to a wick that dies.

But The Word, The Word

is a ruling sum and drastic mean,

the standard that travels

without moving.

Words move,

but The Word is fixed,

the true blank.

The Word is the voice of the lamp,

and words are soot blackening the glass.

The movements of words engender time and death.

But The Word lives outside of time and death.

Inside time, death rules.

Life is death’s kingdom.

We live at dying’s rate.

Words are a sop for death.

But The Word is the mother of thresholds,

regulating life and death.

The Word begets presences impossible

to confirm,

given the blinding action of time

and the sea and the earth’s

turning repose.

Read the full poem here

~Tina Daub