There is No Substance That Does Not Carry One Inside Of It

There is No Substance
That Does Not Carry One Inside Of It

The real story is that she is a piece of light.
The real story is that light turns to flame
Turns to ember, then ash of burned
Sagebrush and city. The real story is
Sebastian remains behind to save the black
Mare with a bucket, a spiraling circle
Of stones.  No one believes the real story
When the strangers politely repeat fire, state evacuate,
Stress please.  Instead the hotelier at the front desk spits
Foreigners. Demands credit cards, passports, car keys.
Curses the tourists who create work after midnight;
Curses Isabella and the ships she sent out to sea
Which leads the man to look up past the courtyard,
The mountains ringed with fire beads, the little
Flames clearly flirtatious, clearly, beyond belief.

Susan Rich
Cloud Pharmacy
White Pine Press

There is No Substance
That Does Not Carry One Inside Of It

Susan Rich

what it means

Some American tourists in Spain  (Isabella is your clue for that) quickly leave an area where wild fires have started.  They try to check in at a hotel past midnight and explain the danger.  The man at the front desk is annoyed, refuses to believe them, and then is shocked when he sees the fires with his own eyes.

The real story of anything flickers and changes, but it burns bright and real.  The real story of who we are and how we live is something magical and pure.  It is about selflessness and caring for others.  It is big and often rejected.  The real story exists even when it is rejected.  It is as big as the mountains and not menacing but flirtatious even though it is extremely powerful.

why I like it

This poem had me with "The real story is that she is a piece of light."  I love the secret telling of it, the authority with which it is stated, and that the image was both surprising and immediately rang true.  Of course, she is a piece of light, as are we all.

I also really like how it tells a story in such small gestures.  

My favorite word in the poem is "flirtatious."  The poem could have gotten so heavy handed in the end with a big I told you so, but instead it lets the hotelier save face and circles back to the first line.  What is beyond belief and flirtatious is not just the fires that the hotelier sees but that a person is a piece of light.  


The repetition is great.  I'm very intrigued with how she sets up a pattern in the first two lines "the real story is" and then breaks it while still including the phrase in a different place later in the poem.  Even without the actual words, I felt that litany thrumming through the rest of the poem.  

I am intrigued how the poem uses two types of communicating.  There are the big ungrounded pronouncements in the first few lines.  And then it switches to a narrative where there are people and things and dialogue.  

I love how the word Isabella tells you where they are and brings an entire history.  I try to pick words for those layers of meaning.