Karen Pittelman


“We are learn­ing to make fire.”
—Margaret Atwood

I stacked the ice like win­dow glass.
After all, even if it was cold,
it was clear.

But now we are learn­ing to make fire
and I do not know what will become
of the melt.

You are bru­tal and ignorant
like any untu­tored beast.
I am the one scan­ning the woods
for twigs and leaves.
Still it is your stubborn
stick upon stick
which car­ries the spark.
Which I feed.
Which changes the night into
a less grue­some thing.

We are learn­ing to make fire
but the prob­lem is now
it must be preserved.

There is no match,
no switch.
Once lit, we must
be stead­fast, we must not
let it starve as we sleep.

We are learn­ing to make fire
and it is useful.

I am warmer, I am
chop­ping bits of meat to boil.
But the for­est eye is watch­ing me.
It says: what we make is
not the same as what we create

What the dry months and the sky
brought forth from noth­ing is
no casu­al tool, is a
car­ni­vore force
and it will not tell
between the fed and food.