I walked one day down sinless streets
To watch the time slip by.
But while there, people in a drove
Did catch my wandering eye.
The darkness swelled around the crowd
Until no face was clear,
When all at once, much like a shroud,
Did rise a fire there.
The smoke that rose then drew my eye
For lovely was its light—
And o, the fire burned and hissed
And lit the dreary night.
But then the smoke did rise again
Just like a ghastly host.
The bodies there did form a den
To house the frightening Ghost.
The fire then was burning fast
And lit up all the earth,
But as the light of morn did come
It dried up all my mirth—
For sun and moon and all the stars
Were shrouded in the blight
Of billowing smoke that rose from flames
That once had shed such light.
I tried to speak, but then a cough
Did wretch my tired voice.
The billows of the smoke did quench
My tongue, my eyes, my choice.
So with the crowd, I hastened on,
Arms raised high in the air
In hopes that some eye might catch mine
And know that I was there.
The people railed and cried and laughed;
My tongue no longer mine.
But for the hideous games smoke plays,
The people thought it fine.
The fire once so docile, sweet,
And lovely and so thin
Did grow in violence and in strength
And ate up all the men.
The children screamed, but not in pain:
They welcomed tragedy;
Because they played among the Ghost,
He was no enemy.
The houses and the wharfs and springs
And children and the dogs
Were swallowed in the billowing strength
Of fire and of fog.
So, many people perished fast,
And all at once the fire
Became not merely light and warmth
But was a funeral pyre.
I know that still the sun will shine
And starry fields still lay,
And since I cannot see them now
They are not in the way.
And though I may not ever see
The stars or sun again,
Perhaps my eyes are better off
Not knowing grace, or sin.
10 December 2007