I only know it’s alchemy,
Turning the everyday metal
Of conversation into gold.
Words lilting in numbers refine
What we say, don’t they, when the base
Stuff of our thoughts is touched with fire?

Who could have known words might catch fire
Then at the start when alchemy
Was still in the dark, and the base
Of all things conceived no metal,
Only the painful light like gold
Loosed from the smelter to refine

The dense black center into gold
Shimmering atoms in the first fire
Of creation? And we refine
Language by our own alchemy
Of technique, testing our mettle,
The brain our neural network’s base,

Shimmering up out of the base-
Ment where we mine the mind’s pure gold.
What are we after, a medal?
No, we’re just hoping for the fire,
The pure word-driven alchemy
We all work somehow to refine.

We’re not all trying to refine
Ourselves or our lives from their base
Beginnings by such alchemy,
Nor to get rich with the false gold
Of fame by catching its brief fire
In a lead bottle. That metal

Is its own black poison. That metal
Resists all efforts to refine
Its essence, even in the fire
That should melt and consume each base
Desire for reputation’s gold.
But we can’t escape alchemy:

We plumb our mettle to its base
As we refine our heart’s own gold
In the fire of art’s alchemy.