Household Fires

Lumière is alone in the house of the Beast.
                    One great gust and the door slams
shut, and the tender locks they lock themselves,
and then no one is watching, and the light is alone
at last and free. First he falls down on the bearskin
rug, which is alive but not quite a bear, which growls
and is glad to be set on fire; then goes into the study,
says hello to the globe alive in the corner and hello
to the heads on the walls; then illuminates too closely
the titles of the books, which too are glad to be set
on fire; leaps up to meet the chandelier and hangs
and swings
          from him, makes more of a chandelier of him;
then when the clock strikes midnight, then stretches
out between the sheets, and falls asleep smoking
on the featherbed; and when he goes out in the middle
of the night gets up to light himself again, like getting
up to get a drink, someone must drink the opposite
of water and that someone is Lumière. He lies awake
and thinks about love, he is most the man who holds
a candle –-
        he is not serious about the feather duster,
she once swept his name off a surface, he hates her,
neither is he serious about the daisies in the vases,
neither is he serious about the hot-and-cold faucet.
He is serious about the turn of the stairs, he is serious
about dark little rooms that he enters, he is serious
about the polish that polishes him. Face as white as a
subtitle, and hair as yellow as a subtitle, and French.
He burns animal fat in the house of the Beast. He gets
into the whisky. He gets wildly kinky with hot wax.
He is serious most of all about the hiss of spit on him,
and how deep do the wicks go in him, he wonders.
Lumière alone in the house of the Beast lies down
and he lets go, and then dance on the ceiling he some-
how does. A man of great influence, a fire, Lumière.
A man who will spread like the Enlightenment over
Europe! But first, over the house of the Beast.

Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, and Poetry. Her first book, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, is forthcoming this summer from Octopus Books.