Elevated Flare

Henk Rossouw

The refinery amid the marshland
of my earliest memories 

repeats itself on the Gulf—

distillation tower, coker, 
flare stack. The horizon interrupted
by chrome hills. 

The tower
ushers naphtha into the next phase,
tar at the base
becoming the asphalt I’m on

near Sabine Pass, hurricane sector
soon to be abandoned. 

The cattails high, I cannot see 
the rufous crown 
of the swamp sparrow. 

I know his markings, the text of his feathers—

vivid, rusty wings,
subtler browns, grays, buff, and black
of the body.

I wish him near, 
songmouth open as a cave 
without sorrow,

trill statistically constant 
for the last 1537 years—
Bayesian computation says
—his syllables cultural. 

A scythe of white smoke drifts across the marsh 

from chrome hills. Crematoriums
of the earth, owned by Aramco, 

burn the seabed’s crude flesh.