A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 13 2000 3:00 AM


Our English word "ardent," meaning "passionate," comes from the Old French ardant and the Latin ardere, "to burn." The original meanings include "burning," "red-hot," and "parching."


Today what I want is simple.
Sliding Rock, North Carolina. Entering Pisgah
the air cools before the long slope of water,
skunk of moss and wood, clean cool of water
all around you in the air. Particulate,
minute, mist rising from the broad rush, water meeting
water. We'll breathe it, soothe
these parched lips, this burning.

Etymological research of "ardent" brings me to
the gleam of pale quadriceps, skin of your cheekbones, bones
of your jaw. Each island, each car, each rainy street, each
candle each window each sky. Your body smooth, hot
here, cool there. Local lore glory deserving close study.

I want to give you green and golden fields, alfalfa, wheat
in sunlight, August, three p.m. In Kyoto, kanji are burned
into mountainsides in August. You can read them from miles
away. Old flames, boxes of blue-tipped strike-anywheres. A state,
uncharted country, a compass, sketch of map. Oaks,
soft rope of tire swing, wide slow rivers, campfires, coals. Oak
Room full of flappers, Luckies smoldering in holders. Piles
of burning leaves. Also smoldering.

A brickyard a lumberyard a wood fired kiln.

My lips are burning. No,
my mind. In my mind my
lips burn. I am "burning." You are "red-hot." This urgency,
open in daylight: "parching."


Jill McDonough is a Wallace Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University.

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