Incendium Amoris

 

Burning incense could cause cancer according to a scientific study conducted by researchers from Taiwan, who found high levels of carcinogens in the smoke of incense burned in Buddhist temples.
- Assoc Press (2 Aug 2001)

I have groped my breast seeking whether this burning were from any bodily cause outwardly. But when I knew that it was only kindled inwardly from a ghostly cause, and that this burning was nought of fleshly love or concupiscence, in this I conceived it was the gift of my Maker.
- Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love (14th C)

i.

Now we know our prayers
are killing us. Offer incense, set flame
to sandalwood, give your soul
to the votive glow of oil lamp and candle;
all it summons is this secret bird of prey,
silence fluttering beneath the rib-cage.
So the slow burn towards divinity
begins from within, after all: Ashes to ashes,
flesh expiring from smoke into grace.
Gather enough faith
and it could kill a city.

ii.

We sensed the bigger picture that day
on Jurong Island: Refineries humming
like desert temples; land gathered and burnt
for one purpose only. On the horizon
smokestacks tower like 7th month joss,
under whose gaze even light wavers,
cowed into sunset. Second after second
the waste flares roar
their fierce syllable of
love
love
love

iii.

How often we fall to the naked gaze of fire,
trusting the blaze of fact, faith, desire
to light the way out from ourselves to wholeness.
As if salvation is earned by becoming less,
by feeding our dreams to the right combustion.
Does the soul hide in plasma? Is God a question?
The unsolved science of this calculable space,
whose name resides in the geometry of light?
Perhaps freedom gleams in answers which escape
us, eludes our sense of what could be. In which case
we are more than just a quantity of ash might
hold, and what we seem to lose, released from shape
only. Any day soon, we could stumble on paradise
in the embers of here and now, and what we sacrifice.
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