Poem: The Fire That Consumes My Brother

The fire that burns him
burns in my body.
And the world around me
burns with the same fire
that burns my brother.

He burns.
His figure dominates the mountain,
and the giant torch of his body fills the jungle.

O my brother,
let me kneel
upon the precious ashes
of your flesh and bones.
Let me summon your young spirit from the shadows
and give it life in the form of a flower,
the first lotus of the season,
before anyone has picked it,
the first new bloom before the sun goes down.

I hear you now.
The storm screams with your cries.
Hearing you, each cell in me,
O my brother, brims with tears.

I still hear you, your appeal from heaven or hell,
and I turn to you, wherever you are.

For a moment the world's heart stops,
while Earth looks at Sky, and each one asks,
"Where is high and where is low?"
Your name in the blinking stars has been inscribed in space.

The fire that burns you burns my flesh with such pain,
that all my tears are not enough to cool your sacred soul.

Deeply wounded, I remain here
keeping your hopes and promises for the young.
I will not betray you—
are you listening?
I remain here
because your very heart
is now my own.

Thich Nhat Hanh, 1963

Found in Call Me By My True Names (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1999)

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