Teaching The White Fire – Caryn Miriam-Goldberg

"The Torah given to Moses was written with black fire upon white fire,”
	~ the Talmud

I taught my children to name all the things—
a single cedar balancing one male cardinal
on a high branch, calling this, this, this.

I taught them “refrigerator,” “windshield”
and “look here, not there” for the doe
and her fawn diving road to ravine.
Listen to the lyrics. Note the mile markers
from Abilene to Limon, and when the sun,
that yellow blur at the end of our drive,
leaves us again.

I told them black fire stories: what’s engraved
on pages or below a broken street light
where no one meets anymore to plot escape routes
if they got caught in a dark forest without pebbles
or discovered a metaphoric baby to rescue
from a real river of wailing sirens.

I told them to wear bravery even if they had to borrow it.

But always we were white fire creatures,
moving rain to fog, marsh to parking lot,
the sucking mud clinging to our ankles
while we search for our keys with cold fingers.

When my children, now adults, call late at night,
they want to know what I did not, could not teach:
how it hurts to break the old stories, how stale
bread turns back to crumbs and paper reverts
to a single oak leaf dropping on their shoulder
while the invisible visceral warmth of the sun
readies itself to fall off the earth again.

In that caroling darkness where endings,
so mutable, are beyond conjuring, all I can tell them
is let your beautiful eyes adjust to the charcoal
skies of loss, feel what gives off all this fire,
all this warmth, then walk that direction.


Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. Her new podcast is Tell Me Your Truest Story. Find out more about her at CarynMirriamGoldberg.com, YourRightLivelihood.com, and Bravevoice.com.


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