A Golden Flame// The Beheading of a Ram
I demand the audacity of lilies:
how, in their flowering, they occupy the undergrowth of my mindscape
with a stench—near-native, to fill an empty body.
skin, torn by surprise or vex.
the blade of sunlight trimming us clean, how a copsewood bows to tanning.
a burn teaches me: whatever retaliates in hurt,
whatever cannot be held, stands the test of time.
the way heat skirts through tortured coal.
& for want of result I stay back, fisting what wouldn’t yield a golden flame,
observing as air tightens around us and shrinks back,
since the present is a tangible thing to snatch & grope
with both hands till it bleeds a flicker.
fire walks on cotton wool & does not tarnish the animal white.
the God of Meshach has no hand in this.
it’s mere science—how we come to terms with knowing
nitrocellulose burns so fast; the flame lacks the time to damage skin.
a believer on hearing this, invokes the fairest of furnaces from a blacksmith.
yet, ice breaks no sweat to unmake it.
I choose to happen as the explanation behind this,
choose to be shatterproof: all that stone-cold wetness melting the perimeter of light.
a solvent designed for killing.
say, the fire crosses carpets to an inferno,
I am as much fresh log as I am rain to make or mar this orange-bright menace.
a hotness hits my ribs, & I solidify:
light, pours on flesh to leave me terror-struck.
even birthing ends with the stiffness of a loin
before the fetus comes out blood-bright.
here, my lap gives way & returns in a garden of red,
gives way, and the cramp stiffens me for the time sun roams the Earth
in cutthroat speed—like the minute that perceives a machete
before the beheading of a ram.
you could strain your eyelids & still not know what blow fells it.
Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. Author of ‘Nature knows a little about Slave Trade’ selected by Tate.N.Oquendo (Sundress Publication, 2023). His works have been previously published/forthcoming in FIYAH, Fantasy Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, The Deadlands, Heartline Spec,Timber Ghost Press, Haven Spec Magazine, Utopian Science Fiction, Penumbric Speculative Poetry & Fiction Magazine & elsewhere. His poem “Wormhole” was an Editor’s Choice @Star*Line(Science Fiction Poetry, SFPA}. A 3x Best of the Net, and 7x Pushcart Nominee. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.
Backstory: This piece “A Golden Flame// The Beheading of a Ram” is a small poem from my third chapbook(forthcoming @Bywords, 2024) which is a brief attempt at unraveling the doctrines of religion, & mystical events almost inaccessible to our rationale/mundane thoughts. “A Golden Flame// The Beheading of a Ram ” draws inspiration and alludes to the biblical story of the brave trio: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, demystifying a part of the myth surrounding this event—while juxtaposing it alongside real life experience.
Editor’s Notes: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Hebrew names Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) are figures from the Scriptures’ Book of Daniel [chapter 3]. In the narrative, the three Jewish men are thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon for refusing to bow to the king’s image.
Image Credit: “Three Men in the Fiery Furnace (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace)” by William Maughan