Sonnets to Prometheus


          "...and we shall rebel against the arch-rebel,
          against him who stole fire from the gods and imposed it on us,
          against him who created us unbidden from clay,
          for that creation and that fire have become one."

                                                -- Watch how... Robert Burns



                   Prometheus, why do you make us carbonaceous,
                   obsequious, to burn one lone and conscious hour?
                   While angels dream of essence which is power,
                   we smolder tar and pitch, bituminous, fumacious.

                   What ache descending through the astral schism,
                   what vague offending eagle's beak, what kindling pain
                   do we endure? Your pyromania soon wanes,
                   reducing us, brown coal, to life's metabolism.

                   Quickly use that welding torch so long forgot
                   and fuse us to your side or execute
                   your brand upon us as your stock and kin...

                   but do not leave us oxidizing smudge-pots
                   to steam and choke, to warm celestial fruit
                   in rising smoke that dreads the shock of wind.



                   We cinders that are stoked from flesh to dust,
                   we Joan-of-Arc-weld-igniting slow addicted
                   darkly lighting inefficient flames in minds convicted,
                   we (of heat and oxygen and fuel) combust:

                   Our crackling fuels parent breath from endosperm,
                   spark embers for genetic sons and daughters
                   to set on kitchen tables milk and meat for fodder
                   that love's kinetic calories might burn.

                   While oxygen sustains the blaze to bless
                   and savor life in us, upon the close of autumn
                   neighbors tell of death or alternately die...

                   and heat arises timely from the stress
                   of dressing up our lives in blends of cotton,
                   of thinking only thoughts that dignify.



                   Doing! Always doing! Solar flares, internal suns
                   of vulcanistic fervor do we live frenetic
                   to wield a cozy creed, a watch-fire ethic
                   over deeds of doing we have done.

                   Bosom-hugging our exploits, our passions,
                   we warm and chafe and coddle energy
                   to cauterize the throttling thought that we
                   are carbon-based incendiary flashes.

                   If gods must let their pyrotechnic power dim
                   so meagerly about our Roman Candle spirits
                   eager to evaporate in laughter self-produced...

                   then leave us more content to simmer at such whim,
                   with glimmering glow to view our fuming wits
                   at last, we squibs reluctant at the fuse.



                   We've wondered how spontaneous combustion sparkles
                   (Believe It or Not): "Trained nurse, age 46, is gone.
                   Flames intercede! One smoking skirt ephemeron
                   alerts us how full speed she burst to charcoal."

                   Timing is the key to immolation
                   for those who fall surprised to soot, slapdash,
                   who neither crawl to rise as salamanders from the ash
                   nor solar dry as raisins shedding dew upon occasion.

                   If deities won't vaporize us by their grace
                   (except those few we've lost at Pentecost),
                   if we must melt before our song is sung...

                   then douse the knowledge of our funeral pace
                   toward the loitering compost holocaust
                   that knows itself for dawdling dung.



                    Auschwitz, Nagasaki, Dresden, Dachau
                   (man's inflammability to man):
                   Should evil claim the fires that you have fanned
                   dynamic thermal system of a shame we disavow?

                   We kindle sulfurous frights of hell by day,
                   cremate by night rude effigies of misbehavior,
                   since hot briquettes remind the youth they must not waver.
                   The hearth, the fireside chats are gone away.

                   Do gods still now incinerate the skies?
                   When last did thunder numb the Thracian hills?
                   When last was anger-lightning lit on Sinai?...

                   Why teach us of your arson in disguise
                   if not to neutralize our chills,
                   to channel heat through tubes of tin that must comply?



                   Have gods no bubbling samovar, no covered bowl
                   of troubled blood like mine that percolates at dusk
                   with mixing, mulling spices of the moment, musk
                   to quench the flickering conflagrations of the soul?

                   If not, then let the gods recess the pilot light,
                   repress the gas jets in galactic ice for pity
                   sake packed round their glory for eternity,
                   and let them shut that chimney damper tight.

                   Don't let them cast a peek toward us clientele
                   who with asbestos seek to insulate our hopes,
                   to tolerate the glaring tropics of their absences...

                   For once all flames extinguish we're dismissed from hell,
                   gone back as nonexistent pith into utopia
                   as myths, persistent in pretense of nonevents.



                   Your flint and steel, Prometheus, lie rusted, frozen,
                   as far removed as winter's dark from equinox,
                   as gods removed from us: no spark, no tinderbox
                   for love, for music, nor for prayers we've chosen.

                   Do not let Zeus look down upon slow bonfire earth
                   thin blanketed with animation!
                   If you can lull his fire-poker into hibernation,
                   you might forestall some other constellation's birth.

                   We choose to live our ambiguity:
                   to burn our humus to the ground in exile
                   or to forgive as inner local seraphim adjourn...

                   going up in smoke--fully--
                   but breathing while
                   we burn.


                                                -- Richard Hacken