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Earl LeClaire | The Thousand Yard Stare, memoirs/poetry
I'm on Fire
Having been burned on both legs with third and fourth degree burns in 2001, I sometimes get what I call phantom burning on both feet and legs. I had to find a poem to read at the Martin Luther King Unity Celebration at a Methodist Church in Boone, NC. The morning of Martin Luther King Day I still had not selected a poem when suddenly I got the phantom burning so severe that it felt as though I was on fire again. When the pain subsided, I sat down and wrote this and read it that evening.
I'm on fire thinking about you and me.
I'm on fire standing at the window
watching it snow.
I'm on fire seeing the cardinals at the feeders.
I'm on fire considering the cats sleeping in their beds.
I'm on fire imagining a beggar
in New Delhi, New York, New Bedford.
I'm on fire as the homeless swirl around me in Boone.
I'm on fire reflecting on the rich, the privileged
who don't give a damn about the doomed.
I'm on fire hearing the evening news.
I'm on fire. I'm on fire.
I keep on burning, burning;
as the smoke and the cinders keep rising, keep rising.
I'm on fire watching the smoldering in Australia, in California.
I'm on fire knowing that children, women, and men
are being bombed in places I once worked, and visited, and loved:
Baghdad, Damascus, Tel Aviv.
I'm on fire with the news of school children
being gunned down in my own country.
I'm on fire remembering the dead warriors, all my brothers.
I'm on fire with thoughts of the wounded warrior, my son.
I'm on fire listening to the false promises
of politicians, worried about re-election
so they can keep their hands in the till.
I'm on fire reading the words of Martin Luther King:
"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.,"
as I try to love an enemy
without exception, without expectation.
I'm on fire thinking about what the poet, Juanita Tobin wrote:
"Blood is the same color, regardless the color of skin."
I'm on fire, weeping in the flames as this sacrifice
vows to go on without end.
I'm on fire with the desire for peace.
I'm on fire with the prospect of hope.
I'm on fire with the belief in the majesty of spirit.
I'm on fire. I'm on fire. I'm still burning.
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