The ancient firefighters of Japan
Entered the house of the fire
Darkened and dowsed in the coldest water;
In thick blue kimonos and high, ear flapped
Hats, they’d run, drenched, into the orange heat –

Their broad black backs passing quietly
Between the vanishing branches
Of flame, until they could not be seen,
As if the mouth of the fire had drunk them down
And left silence in the drying grass.

Nothing would happen until they reappeared,
And even then nothing seemed to be happening,
Because nobody believed it was possible,
But they would return: dried out,
Exhausted and ready to be re-dowsed
If the fire still burnt; but if did not

They’d remove their dark kimonos and throw their hats down
And take their dark kimonos and turn them inside out
To reveal the patterns of the fire sewn there
To be paraded through the streets of the town,
Heroes made of the breath
Of the dragon they’d defeated.


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