“The Fear of the Dark” by Nan Cohen

“The Fear of the Dark”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 26 2013 8:34 AM

“The Fear of the Dark”

A man holds a bucket as he tries to extinguish a late night fire at the Okobaba sawmill near the Lagos Lagoon January 8, 2013.

Photo by Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Nan Cohen read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

The fear of the dark is the flame
at the end of a match: one scratch,
and it flares.
Then a voice calls in the night.
And you go to it.

Wherever earth is in shadow,
these fears burn like fires.
This one is yours.
You tend it. Feed it a stick.
The flame crouches
to eat the wood.

Serving the fire,
you don’t fear the dark.
You kneel to it,
hearing its voice
grow softer and slower, until
it says one more thing
you can’t hear. And sleeps.

Nan Cohen is the author of Rope Bridge and the poetry director of the Napa Valley Writers' Conference.

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