The Firebrands

What is the real reason Jupiter
did not let humans have fire? 
When the brutal winters came
he saw that they were unhappy. 
Was it to make them suffer, out of joy
or boredom, in the rotting, barkless cold?
Was it to merely expose their interiors
as hollow space for veiled, powdery, pinkish-
salmon, gill-like phobias? Was it just a dark 
game between them – an omniscient god 
purchasing back what he already owned? 

A quid pro quo of loyalty and suffering for
a life of obedience. Of course, there was Prometheus
who did not believe in the necessity of suffering,
at least not if it can be avoided through courageous invention.
So much like Buddha and Christ wasn’t he?
Even descending deep
under the earth to persuade Vulcan
to let go of one of his trade secrets: 
This one was how to brandish fire. Fire.
Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Power. The Garden of Eden. Protection.
Satisfaction. Capsized in the black resinous
warmth of flesh staining flames, the predators
of the night were kept at bay. 

Yet, Jupiter, it has been said,
declared that fire is not for the people of Earth. 
Why did Jupiter fear humanity on fire?
Is it because he loved them and knew
that they would destroy themselves? 
Or was it about control? 
Simply maintaining influence. 
Isn’t that what it always comes down
to in the end? Between colors and worlds,
as old as fish dying on the hot sands,
because the gods are jealous and concerned
about us, we are stuck to a diamond-shaped rock
of slate, just like any savior who came
by ship and went-we are sacks of pepper and lambchops
for fierce hungry birds flying around our heads. 
Year after year, chained to a lonely rock,
picked at by vultures until the underground
tissue of our brains become tinted violet
and gelatinous.

George Cassidy Payne is a poet from Rochester, NY. His work has been included in such publications as the Hazmat ReviewMoria Poetry JournalChronogram JournalAmpersand Literary ReviewThe Angle at St. John Fisher College, and 3:16 Journal. George’s blogs, essays and letters have appeared in USA TodayThe Wall Street JournalThe AtlanticHavana TimesSouth China Morning PostThe Buffalo News, and more. 

See all his poems on Tea House here.

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