Arête – a poem by Jeff Burt


I am, the voice said, speaking from the charred figure
of a small madrone, a lifeless thing.

I’m spent, not simply tired, exhausted,
but empty, un-animated, without.

I did, and did, and did, and now I’m done.
I know you came for inspiration,

for certainty in spite of your disbelief,
for one more fiery ignition of knowledge

or a rabbit of faith pulled out
of the magical natural world you conquered.

I’ve run out of flame, I’m extinguished.
I could only keep it going so long.

That’s why I said listen to the little voice.
That’s me. That’s all that’s left.

The earth is done, you know. Don’t think
you’ve killed it, though what you’ve done

with its magnitude of riches is remarkable
in a negative way. Perishing is part

of life, and even this wet marble of a world dies
or changes every millennia. Fickle thing,

creation. I didn’t exactly plan it
in the way you think, nor is it an accident

or an evolutionary spin in the way
you think, either. I can’t explain it.

It simply was, in the way you think.
But you came here on a hike

looking for beauty and solace.
I’m no agent of grandiosity any more.

But sit. Stay with me. Talk. I’ll listen, give comfort.
It’s what I do. It’s what I’ll always do.


Jeff Burt lives in California. He works in mental health, and has work in The Monarch Review, LitBreak, Terrene, Nature Writing, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review poetry prize.

1 Comment

  1. Carol says:

    Very thoughtful poem. So much to ponder about. So sensitive. Heart-breaking but real too.. love it..thank you


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