For Light, For Fire

by Sam Cha

But all I've got's this car-exhaust-blue

whiff of naphtha, click whirr scrape of flint

and knurled steel, tongue flick of orange and soot

in an oblong of dull metal, corners rounded

and nicked. Hard as brass, bold as brass –

But wounded, still. Feel it.

The snaking abrasions, hair-trap tangle

of them, slick under fingers like warm wax.

Don’t the impressions melt? See how leisurely

the light falls, how it drips off your skin

to mist the worn chrome, how slowly it evaporates,

condenses into sight. All our reflections

are warped and already past. Our mouths smear

like fingerprints. The volatile hydrocarbons

of the eye sublime and deposit. This is how

we perceive. We are remembering.

Take that jaundice yellow patch, there.

That's two weeks of rain, a rusty

chain, one too many pills. He floated

over the handlebars into the sweet syrup

of the air, felt the brake handle bloom

in his thigh like an orgasm, heard his Zippo

clattering on the pavement. It's been so long

since I was him. The scar on my leg

is fading, and I don't remember much else

about him. I think he lay in the street

flat on his back. I think there was more rain.

A flicker of lightning. There was dark

and there was streetlamp. Shadow spreading

vulture wings. The turnpike moaned.

He couldn't see it. There were drugs, rain-

drops, trees, houses, streets, other lives

between them. At that distance it might

have sounded like the sea. It must have

sounded like tide. It must have sounded

like all of us, chained to time.

Sam ChaSam Cha received his MFA in poetry from UMass Boston. Before that, he studied at Williams, UVA, and Rutgers. He was the winner of the 2011 Academy of American Poets Prize at UMass Boston (judged by Marilyn Chin). Also of the 2012 Academy of American Poets Prize at UMass Boston (judged by Martha Collins). Also, he was one of the recipients of the 2011 &NOW Awards.

He's been published (poems, essays, translations) in apt, anderbo, Opium Online, decomP, Radius, ASIA, and Amethyst Arsenic, among other places. And his favorite kind of pie's a mud pie with a rope ladder baked into it---lockpicks and chisels on the side, hold the tin plates.