What element is it makes fire burn green?
I think of it feathering from copper screen
thrown out because corroded fragile
to an old wire incinerator, with detergent
boxes and dry-milk boxes and toilet-paper
spindles, the funnies, kleenex, all the week’s gradual
fall-out. This is not that shroud-like vapor
bluing a bunsen’s mouth: That fire is too pure, too urgent—
all it seems to know how to say is Learn.
What this fire says is something less stern.
Have a good time, maybe, or What was I just saying?
Some contaminant must be to blame,
since it is never the main flame,
but a rider, or aura, or rare lightning playing
inconstantly over the steadier yellow
(grass blazing on a hill somewhere,
or a sunny river run fanned and shallow)—
so sweet, so temporal a green,
almost the burnt-out, bare
branches of spent esteem will fret and flare,
and the world will come to mean what it ought to mean.
© Jack Butler