Prince of Fire
Prince (from Poetry Magazine, October 2007)
Though the almanac hang
between us, though my brow
and my hands are maps –
I will encircle you
as I encircle you now
when my brow and my hands
are ash. We will be
as if chosen. Even the air
will have to pretend.
Wish more love poems were this elegant and powerful; in a way, it does get me thinking of “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Not much to say. “Fire” is unmentioned but quite obviously drives the poem. Fire not only evokes the idea of desire, but is a curious object. It differs every single moment: it is always becoming. Other objects point to a more static notion of being.
The speaker is trying to solve the problem of time – the problem of desire – through the use of space. “Almanac” hangs between lover and beloved as the almanac specifies when things occur on this Earth. The speaker’s mind and motion are “maps:” not just the filling of space, but a projection into space.
Space implies distance. The lover is definitely parted from the beloved: does he even care? As a map, she tracks his every movement in her world. She thinks his world is literally her. It almost sounds creepy, but “are ash” makes it clear this is the nature of love.
The fire has burned out. Is love finished? No: the desire is complete, “as if chosen.” It is not that the lover has conquered the beloved. It is as if there was both destiny and choice – two completely contradictory things – acting at the same stretch of time. Occupying space, enfolding the lover, was always fruitless. But dwelling on time in terms of these matters is also senseless. Hence, “air.” Not quite space simply, but close. Where we breathe, where we talk, where we make those vows which the earth and heavens respect.