No Candles for Elizabeth

When it got really cold, we geared up for our fire festival

Bags of unadulterated cosmic fury

Crates of mineral glory, bound hard in cardboard

Ordnance of ancient Chinese science

Fuse-sprung to open the dimensions, to sing and skate

On icy planes of night air

Peking operas in bumper pack assortments

Catherine Wheels staked on paddock nails

The whole damn haul set aside, waiting to scream

And us in duffel coats and beanies waiting

For the semi-official hour when it all kicked off

Then three or four generations became possessed

Of the ancient birthright, no real order to it once we’d begun

The only protocol was involvement

And one big cracker at a time, to maximize the glory

Well, some of those things were dragons

Their intelligence awed us, their loaded dance

Had been waiting there the whole time

We gave over to the summoning

And the djinns roared back at us

Blowing shadows out into the paddocks and yards

Flattening us in the black wake

Of their jade and crimson stars


But then. . .

But then, well.

Some malign little near-abortion couldn’t help but

Spray down every cat and kid he came across

Turning flames on everything that moved

And some grubby little idiot tapped

The powdered guts, reworked them into a lead pipe

And blew his hand into fine mince

And so

That was the end of it, our fire festival.

Shut down, but that’s alright, apparently

Because now we can all go and stand behind the fucking line

(By Christ, but we are an obedient race)

And enjoy watching other people do it all

And call it ‘Fun for Everyone’


Will Swan



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