Ryan Clark

Firefighters' 1927 Nightlight Shows No Sign of Burnout


For the Mangum light bulb, burning since 1927

The years of burning in Mangum—

shining even and low as a drop

of lava leaking from the wall—

screwed into a socket and

grew a tongue we bring out

for a story. It tells us to burn

as a fire held without movement.

It tells us even the years

can forget you still exist.


A young wattage is undone,

and we move to cup it

with our hands

before it is waste we know

to twist away from. But this

is a story of steadiness

that movement disconnects.

It is a status we use

as a nightlight, as we

are afraid of a thing cut down,

and the Mangum bulb is a life

hanging on to its station,

is a scripture for a vanishing

field of towns.


A story is a version of belief

we bear steadily into

unlit corridors, to say:


this is a durable life,

we are a still-burning wire.

Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark is obsessed with puns and writes his poems using a unique method of homophonic translation. He is the author of How I Pitched the First Curve (Lit Fest Press, 2019), and his poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in Yemasse, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tahoma Literary Review, Flock and Posit. He is a winner of the 2018 San Antonio Writers Guild contest, and his work has been nominated for Best of the Net. He currently teaches creative writing at Waldorf University in Iowa.