Weaving together bones and forging glass hearts,
four letters build each of us with their ancient fire.
Inside my chest lives a bone cage and a crimson soul
singing, translucent, backlit from ancient fire.
Moon and star jewels, emblazoned on The Raven’s back,
give light to my ebony forebears, navigating without ancient fire.
Before they marched, silent for a thousand miles like heavy years,
my Tsalagi ancestors knit together tales around the ancient fire.
Waulking backwards through my skin I find Celtic knots,
and forests which pulse and glow with drums, song, and ancient fire.
A lord from a frozen island wrote verse blessed with flame –
his bones had been burning from the ancient fire.
We eccentrics, fashioning story and song from the ether,
dip our scarlet and libertine fingers into the ancient fire.
When I was twelve, I picked up my own flaming stylus
and learned to speak curve and letter from the ancient fire.
With pen, I declare with a sound mind and rooftop heart:
every one of us is made from the Ancient Fire!
At the precipice of madness some celebrate the night:
whirling bacchants steeped in the wine of ancient fire.
Flesh-wrapped souls dance and merge under moonlight;
the friction of their bodies ignites eros, made from the ancient fire.
Inside the halls of centuries, we women have been quaffed
by men, transfixed, who cannot help but imbibe ancient fire.
Enthralled, I put my lips to my beloved’s cup and drink;
I pour libations into my ribcage of his ancient fire.
Though I find myself sometimes injured and charred,
I, Nicole, will not cease to dance by the eternal, ancient fire.
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #130: Osmosis and it couldn’t come at a better time: last week, I’d already spent some time reading Lord Byron and decided to continue my adventure with his work. I wasn’t able to get into as much depth as I would have liked with his work, but I was able to read enough to let it sink it and I think some of ol’ George slipped my writing. But I’ll let you judge for yourself.
I was inspired to choose the ghazal form partially as a reference to Lord Byron’s “Turkish Tales”. I read an excerpt of one of these, “The Giaour” and in my brief research read a little bit about Orientalism, of which the three poems of Byron’s “Turkish Tales” are an example. Because 18th and 19th century artists and writers were viewing eastern cultures (India, Turkey, China, et. al.) through their own Western lens, I thought I’d turn it on its head a little and write a ghazal using the basic form to express what sunk into me from the “lord from a frozen island” (by the way, I borrowed “frozen island” from the 2001 film Lagaan — as British troops are passing through the village in which the story takes place, the local fortune teller mocks them, saying “go back to your frozen island”).