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When I was younger,  
I was always admonished:  
Don’t put your finger to the flame.  
Don’t burn in the fire.  

When I was older, I learned that fire  
wasn’t just from the stove, candles, and logs— 
idealism, perfectionism, and fanatic passion too. 
I learned the hard way that my dreams’ lithium
flames could scorch me instead.  

Love something passionately  
and your heart balloons with hot air.  
Energetic, lighthearted, you float to the sky, 
stretch your fingers out to touch the stars, the 
incandescent flowers of a barren paradise.  I
want the stars.  

No one told me to watch out  
for the inferno in my heart  
that ignites an insatiable hunger  
for power, knowledge, and perfection. 
Disquieting self-doubt billows as smoke.  

The balloon rocks with turbulence.  
Flickering dangerously.  

When things don’t go right,  
Watch out, curious scientist,  
Don’t burn in the fire. 

—Nimran Shergill is a first-year in Timothy Dwight College.

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