In the Steve Goodman documentary, included in the DVD “Steve Goodman Live From Austin City Limits… And More,” Kris Kristofferson refers to a poem by a South American poet to explain what Steve was like [see 29:40 on YouTube]. The poem talks about a man who scales a high mountain and looks down upon all the people on earth and sees them each like a spark of flame. “Some of the flames simply burn, others waver, but some are so bright and hot you can’t even look at them. Kristofferson paused then, and you could see him struggling to control his emotions. He said that Steve was like that; full of so much energy inside of him that it was almost too much for one body to contain.” It took me six months to track down the poem and poet.
IThank you to filmmaker Mark Eisner who shared that the poem is “Los Fueguitos” in the collection “El Libro de los Abrazos” by the great Eduardo Galeano:
Un Mar de Los Fueguitos
Un hombre del pueblo de Neguá, en la costa de Colombia, pudo subir al alto cielo.
A la vuelta, contó. Dijo que había contemplado, desde allá arriba, la vida humana. Y dijo que somos un mar de fueguitos.
—El mundo es eso —reveló—. Un montón de gente, un mar de fueguitos.
Cada persona brilla con luz propia entre todas las demás.
No hay dos fuegos iguales. Hay fuegos grandes y fuegos chicos y fuegos de todos los colores. Hay gente de fuego sereno, que ni se entera del viento, y gente de fuego loco, que llena el aire de chispas. Algunos fuegos, fuegos bobos, no alumbran ni queman; pero otros arden la vida con tantas ganas que no se puede mirarlos sin parpadear, y quien se acerca, se enciende.
A Sea of Little Fires
A man of the town of Neguá, on the coast of Colombia, was able to climb to the high heaven. On his return, he told a story. He said he had contemplated, from above, human life. And said that we are a sea of little fires.
The world is that—he revealed—A cluster of people, a sea of little fires. Each person shines with their own light among all others. No two fires are alike. There are large fires and small fires and fires of all kinds and colors. There are people of serene fire, unaware of the existence of wind, and people of crazy fire, who fill the air with sparks. Some fires, foolish fires, do not shine or burn; but others burn life so heartily you cannot observe them without stopping to blink, and whoever gets close, flares up.