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Entries in fire (7)



My life dance is ambiguity, acceptance, independent detachment and creative imagination.

Dance is isolated yet cooperating and independent. I believe in the magic of dance.

When you dance for a fleeting moment you feel alive.

What do I see? I see a circle of movement, a connected unity, language in space.

There are five rhythms in dance.

You start with a circle. It’s a circular movement from the feminine container. She is earth.

Then you have a line from the hips moving out. This is the masculine action with direction. He is fire.

Chaos is next, a combination of a circle and line where male and female energies interact.

This is transformation.

After chaos is the lyrical. A leap. A release. This is air.

The last element of dance is stillness. Out of stillness is born the next movement.

I’ll dance until I die. What is life?



Fire's Aftermath

Mingalar market fire, Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma).


Mandalay Mingalar Market Fire

To the west a dancing sun burned yellow-orange. It filled the sky shading orange and blue.

The rough dirt street paved in places by jutting stones was crowded with residents staring east.

A billowing black source cloud swirled high into gray wind whipped smoke. Spectators gawked, gasped, and yakked. Speculation, supposition, myth.

Down below, out of sight, out of mind, flames spread from rows of makeshift food zones near the west entrance of Mingalar Market.

A spark? A moment as charcoal embers flamed cloth and wood? An errant signature glowing slow and steady.

Near the narrow food area were fabric shops and plastic food in plastic bags – elements of combustible material.

Women with organic fruits and vegetable piled into mountains scattered screaming grabbed children heading for exits. Two children died of smoke inhalation.

Flames bolted into around and through wooden stalls filled with cloth.

Colors exhaled in the heat.

100 sewing machines glowed red.

Flames indulged their fantasy. Fruits and vegetables fizzled, cracked, exploded. Frenzy of fire.

Street 73 was packed with cell phone amateurs, beeping motorcycles, police cars, fire engines and ambulances all trying to get through…night fell, crashing into waves of volcanic billowing smoke floating north, gaining speed at higher elevations.

A full bone white moon witnessed the spectacle.

Water cannons extended from fire trucks directed streams of life over exterior stonewalls and shuttered shops into the center.

Red flames leaped, licking black clouds.

Firemen scrambled with hoses seeking more H20. Flashing emergency lights illuminated shifting crowds flashing strobes on phones.

White helmeted men yelled instructions to firemen. Sirens roared down streets looking for a source in a sewer drain.

The morning after – lines of police down the middle of 73rd and adjacent streets. Squads of orange vested street cleaning women huddled in groups having tribal discussions.

Fire trucks lined the street blocking off the market.

Vested women hauled out bamboo baskets and lifted them to men in garbage trucks.

Gawkers lined streets.

Firemen rolled up frayed hoses – police cadets marched in formation.

Trucks with armed soldiers left the scene.

Gutted shops, debris, and memories danced near boys leaning against a fence staring at burned mattresses. Salvaged hair dryers on a sidewalk reflected puddles of water.

A medic in a white Red Cross helmet waited for no one.

Two tired firefighters lying on top of a truck closed their eyes.


wather, Winning the Turf, Work in the stones

From Achill Sounds, a collection of poems by Thomas J. Phalen, a friend. 


There was a mad poet
Hawking his verse
On the streets of Galway City.
And I watched him pronounce Wather in Irish.
His mouth, a kiss around it:
Ooowhishka, he said.
The whisky in aqua vitae,
The Fionn Uisce in Phoenix Park,
That the conquerors’ tongues
Had such a hard time with.

Winning the Turf

I swept out the ashes, cold on the stones,
Bent to the task in the dawn gloom.
The wind skirled laments in the too skinny flue
And out the window, the threat of more rain.

There on the stones, fumbling for cold
I stacked and balanced the turves
Built there a redoubt sturdy and heaped
As Brigid Moran had once shown me.

The Morans have turbary rights in the bog
She’d said, as she struck the match smartly
It’s Moran turf, surely, we’re burning this morning,
As her yellow flame danced and grew bold.

She’d bent to the task, all business it seemed,
And mid-wived the flickering flame.
Blew on it once, then twice, like a bellows
Brought it forth in the forge of the hearth.


I’d seen all the boghollows hewn in the heather
As I’d ambled the brambled boreens
Seen turves helter-skelter, heaped up from these rents
Slane marks etching the faces.

I imagined her da at the face of a bogbank
Where the bog water rilled at his heels
Inelegant, red-faced, in blue overall
His Wellingtons thick with muck spatter.

Slaning it deftly, six bars deep,
And heaving sods high to the spreader
Who barrowed them heavily by donkey and creel
And footed the turf stacks in clamps.

Sputtering, puffing, like a kettle at gallop
Delving and heaping the sods
As the slow day turned down and a blanket of mist
Tucked them into a distant soft weather.


My match flared up hugely in the grey morning cold
And I touched it to paper and shavings
Watched it there kindle, smoulder, and smoke,
Hesitate, catch, and then take.

My turf fire blossomed all orange and bright blue
Putting chase to the slate day’s cold weight
This light, heat, and life, all up from the mud -
The mud of fair young Brigid’s home.

Work in the Stones

They bled the fields of the stones
Back breaking
And by the thousands.
Snaked the walls right round
Fitting and snugging flat the faces.
They tucked the dead weight tight
Sinuous and sturdy,
Running from here to nowhere
But not in the fields now.
‘Til the hills were striped and boxed.
And the work,
The low-down, rain-sodden work,
Held forever
Like a breath
In these stone walls.

Up close, the copes, some fallen,
Bear down on the batters
The throughs and the heartings
Buried in the heap of them.

The binders hewing them
Together from the heap fall
The batter lines spreading out
To the wet foundations
The wall heads at the corners
The joints broken with coverstones.

And the squeeze stiles
To pen the bulls
But a lunkie or a smoot
For the wayward lambs.

The work,
The heavy dull-thudded work,
Deft and thumb smashing,
Cunning and cruelly hard,
Here, forever, by the side of this road,
Admired and ignored. 


Fire talks


What's louder than a group of Khmer people? Another group of Khmer people. Get used to it. Volume. Noise. They love distractions. They live, eat and breath distractions and noise. They love talking over each other. Listening is hard work. Silence is known for killing people. Fear of death is a one long conversation.

They've been traumatized by their long past into the immediate present grasping the future. It's a time machine, a time warp, a consciousness warp.

It is curious to see with complete clarity the FIRE inside the cement stove in the simple local java and tea shop at 0615. Orange and bright dancing red flames consume kindling. It heats water for tea and java. Reminds me of a winter stove in Lhasa warming a room with joy.

Words crackle, spit, dance with laughter's sensation of heat.

Piles of kindling are stacked between cement slabs like orphans waiting to exonerated.  

It's a male thing. The men are over 40. They are survivors of The Dark Years.

All the men wear fresh pressed shirts and long pants. They have jobs. They talk about life: business, jobs, paper, kids, wives, weather, facts, opinions, big plans and ghosts. They eat fried bread, drink brown tea and java. Their spoons create music with glass. 

1.7 million ghosts dance through their silent conversations. No one talks about it. They prefer to talk about the now. The future. Ghosts live in the past. Leave it there, said one man. Half our population is under 30, said another man. They have no memory of the past. Education is the key, said another man. Yes, said another man, We missed our chance.

The only chance I had, said another man, Was to run and hide in the jungle. Look at my hands. Now I spend my days rewriting history.

A human is a kind of conversation. Many humans live lives of quiet desperation. Fire knows this fact.