The Fire Poems, Part 6

6. I was going write a book on why I did it but decided to give it to you in poems instead because I’ve always been a coward.

This is my grocery list to you, my litany of lost things:
     Fragments of memory soaked in metaphor and Deeper Meaning (I’ve always been a bad poet)
     Apologies:
          (I’m sorry this won’t be what you’re looking for)
          (I’m sorry I’ve hijacked your home for a fucking poem)
          (I’m sorry that it isn’t the first time I’ve done this)
          (I’m sorry that I’m always doing shit like this, selfish to my bones)
          (I’m sorry that it stinks like formaldehyde, but that’s the only way to keep these arteries from hardening, to keep these muscles soft and shining)
          (Fuck. I’m sorry that I just did it again)
          (I’m sorry I burned the house down)
          (I’m sorry you were inside)
          (I’m sorry you escaped)
     Formalin
     Everything you lost in the fire:
          Toothbrush – 1 yours, 1 mine
          T-shirts – More than 15, less than all of them
          Light bulbs – 22, not counting the one in the kitchen that was out
          Houseplants – 5, but they were going to die anyway
          Bowls – 5
          Candlesticks for fancy dinners you always meant to have but never got around to – 2 sets
          The books
               Actually, forget about the books
               Everyone goes on and on about books, but you should miss the electricity instead
          Magnets that just sort of appeared one day and never left – 10
          Cans of diet coke – 7
          Chairs – 6
          Table – 1
          House – 1
                   But I did you a favor with that one, really.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The Fire Poems, Part 5

5. Dramatic Aside About Our Problems

I’ve always hated words without meaning.
Like, you once said that
Something or other stood POISED LIKE A LOVE POEM
and I hated you for that.
Nothing that has anything to do with love is ever poised.
It’s always scraping noses across the pavement,
fists meeting jaws and never letting go,
houses with their hair on fire against a dark sky.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The Fire Poems, Part 4

4. The Plight of the Baby Heart

Hey, did I ever tell you? My eyes were cut wide open and I came into this world swinging an aluminum bat.
So step aside baby heart uncut teeth unsplit lip undropped shoe.
These are my murdering hands. This is my working shirt. That is what I have done. All laid out like intention.
Put that ax down, baby heart. It isn’t going to snow here. We don’t need wood for the fire.

I’ve spent the last twenty-five years sewing my lips shut and scraping my nose off against the pavement.
I’m not going to stop talking until I’ve run out of things to say, baby heart, so stop waving that ax at me.
No, listen. I’m sorry I burned the house down. I really am.
I drove over spilled books on a highway yesterday. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Will you put that ax down? You’re not fooling anyone. It isn’t going to get cold. We won’t need a fire.
I’m sorry I burned the house down. I didn’t know you were inside.
If I did— What did I say about waving that around? You don’t have the hands for it. We don’t need the wood.
If I did— Are you going to let me finish now? Sew those lips shut and let me tell you something, baby heart.

If I did, I would have locked the door on my way out. I would have done the job right if I knew what it meant.
Put it down, baby heart uncut teeth unsplit lip undropped shoe.
This is not what betrayal looks like. I promise that you’ll know it when you see it.
The bad truth is that I never escaped this little how-town with these little who-faces.
I tried, baby heart. I really tried. But this town grew into me and latched itself into my bones.

Now I can’t tell if it moves me or I move it but either way, I would’ve locked the door if I knew you were inside.
You can blame the town if you want. You can blame me. Either way, it doesn’t change what happened.
I’ll always regret that I did not know. But where was I? What was I saying?
Oh right. The books. Thanks, baby heart. You always know what I mean.

I drove over spilled books on the highway yesterday. You would have called it a poem.
Spines were split like a car accident and pages smeared across the asphalt.
I know what you’re thinking and no, I didn’t stop and I didn’t call the cops but there was so much blood.
So much blood you wouldn’t believe it. And I thought hey, wow, this is just like you, baby heart.

These are your uncut teeth. This is your unsplit lip. That is your undropped shoe. All laid out like intention.
These are sticky fingers smearing life where I never wanted it.
This is the red crayon on the woodwork.
That is a match in a dark hallway that didn’t know you were home.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The Fire Poems, Part 2

2. The Singularity of Some Things

I’ve stopped reading subtle differences, like which
side of the punch I’m really on,
you know?
knuckles bruise lips, teeth break knuckles
and they’re so closely pressed together that I can’t tell where you
end and I begin and you said,
     “we’re bordering on biblical here and—”
what was the rest? Oh,
     “Less love, more leather jackets
     more eyes like blackout curtains
     more rough bodies in cement stairwells
     more scrapes up our spines like war wounds and leaking flags.
     Pass on the apologies, say no to the tears,
     Write poems across your fists and shove them down people’s throats.
     If we all go around genuflecting all the time,” you said,
     “We’ll run into something eventually.”
And damn, if I could have turned everything you ever said into a poem,
I’d never have run out of things to eat
and I’d still know what to call you.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

The Fire Poems, Part 1

1. Picture of a Burned-Out House

You can still see what it looked like before the fire.
You can still see the outline where it seared the sky.
Look-
     That’s the slope of the roof
     Those were the kitchen chairs
     There was where the walls met
     These were the stairs
     Here is where you lived
and I can still see you in it, too:
     This is your burnt outline
          Like a police chalking of a body
          Like your shadow melted to the wall

This was the place before it happened.
I could give a tour of this wreckage.
Look at this mess.
Watch where you step— the nails survived the fire
     spite solidified, tetanus and rust
     proof that there isn’t a god and you were wrong all along.

This was where the firetrucks sat and screamed
and threw up their hands at a job badly done.

This is a photograph of the fire
          and here is another and another and another and
All the photos you had of the house when it was whole
          were in the house and eaten whole.

This is where you kept the photos. This is the fire that ate them.
So take this one instead.
     Remember your house with its hair on fire.
     Remember the paint blistering.
     And all those little things you loved, so much, as only ash against an orange sky.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6