Denise Blake

Lighting the Flame

The paraffin lamp was a wedding present.
A working ornament: a base of polished
bronze to hold the oil, a small dial to control
the level of cotton wick, a pronged metal cric
held the glass chimney for flame and light.

The pair of us, in our early twenties,
setting up home with matches, kerosene
and open flame in our small living space.
Neither of us willing to ask the elders
for advice on how to make the lamp work.

We caused smoke, and soot and nearly, a fire.
The low yellow flame brought a dim glow
under the frosted-glass shade and no heat.
We cast the lantern aside until we learned
of the net mantle hanging like a tiny birdcage.

We needed to place the mantle equidistant over
the base, strike a match, flash oxides off the surface.
What remained was a delicate meshing,
strong enough to contain fire and white-hot heat,
create incandescent light from a small blue flame.

Denise Blake’s second poetry collection, How to Spin Without Getting Dizzy is published by Summer Palace Press. She is a regular contributor to Sunday Miscellany RTE radio 1. She is on Poetry Ireland’s Writers in Schools Directory.