“Between Two Fires” by Michael S. Begnal


rising from molten metal

in a cauldron/

it’s the blue of blues,

the blue of bullets

burning, melted

and aflame/

it is the blue in which,

you see your father as he looked

1000 years ago

in a beard and sort of a cloak

at the base of an oak/

it is the phrase

“the blue flame”

which means something about

a guitar or motor/

it is the blue fire to one side,

like a blue bird that arises

and scorches the immediate air,

a pole,

     a peal

of decibels,

the blue bell/

it is the berries

set to bloom/

the blue of the tattoos

on your shins

and the light under which

you stand and speak/

it is the blue tone

in the voice, then/

one fire of two,

grotesque, saturating

and saturated/

it is blue and it burns

to bones


a pole, the orange fire

to one side/

the orange, pervading light

emanates from her

maw, a camera, a room

that bursts into public/

not only one but two,

and feel the heat of it,

sweat the heat of the

burning of the beginning

of summer/

the smoke carries messages

to space, internal

rhymes (with orange)

and alliterates—

no assonance/

words flicker and lick faces,

singe, scarify the flesh/

the feeling

when in front of a fire

on the early summer night/

the orange fire

is a tiny-tongued bird

with neon eggs,

a nest or a pyre/

drinking a 40

in front of a fire,

the crackle of

the bouncing spark on ground

and past the hills

in the distance is a valley

and it is warm there/

and though you sit silent,

the orange fire spins

and burns skin, hair


the poem can be

whatever you want it to be,

you blow as deeply

as you want to go,*

you have your song/

wherever the air

bears weight/

dispensing with metaphor,

what is the song?

waves that ripple flesh

one night before

the flesh was gone/

air waves emanating

from a horn/

and bone?

vibrates into the bones too,

amplifiers all the way up

bashing the fucking guitar

till the hand bleeds,

and the drums/

finding all those little spaces

hidden in the scale,

the notes in between

that harmonically hum

through the feedback/

the overblown notes

of the horn/

the expansion

and compression of energy

as the hand brushes past the knee

as you twist and step

and the other hand follows

forward and out you whirl back

pull the hands in guide the energy

up through the center

and out again

Michael S. Begnal is the author of Future Blues (Salmon Poetry 2012) and Ancestor Worship (Salmon Poetry 2007), as well as the chapbooks Tropospheric Clouds (Adjunct Press 2020) and The Muddy Banks (Ghost City Press 2016). He has also written a book on the rock band the Stooges, The Music and Noise of the Stooges, 1967-71: Lost in the Future (Routledge 2022). He has an M.F.A. from North Carolina State University.

Image: “Boldly Forth, Into New Frontiers, Go” by Bill Cawley

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