Living Fire

Ralph Nazareth

The papers that I wad up and fling into the grate
to get the kindling started
are my hoard on human rights
torn from The Nation, The Times, The Catholic Worker
and reams of laser print-out
on hunger, cruelty, wars, and rumors of war.

I'm through with stashing up the world in piles of paper.
There must be other ways to remember and to act.

The fire catches. As I crumple up more paper to build it up,
my eyes light on an item or two:

Young Amadou Diallo's mother reclaims her son's body
and vows to fight for justice.

The mothers of Plaza de Mayo keep walking in circles
certain the earth will yield their lost sons and daughters.

There are others here, spilling my hands,
pinned by hooded judges, screaming No to lies

I decide: the only items I will keep from now on
are clippings of the dead.

I feed the fire with the stories of the living.