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

21. Shou is Unimpressed

She introduces herself and holds out a hand for him to shake.

“Shou Yoshida,” he replies and stares at the hand. Didn’t the doctor tell her? When her eyes narrow and her hand stays aggressively jutting into his space, he shoves his fists into his pockets. “I don’t like touching people.”

He winces.

She considers the tic. “Tourettes?”

He nods.

“What are those scars from?” She points at the shiny skin on the underside of his arm.

“I hurt-t-t-t myself.” The lie is easier every time but the stutter isn’t. 

“Looks like an animal attack.”

He winces and looks away.

Where to Begin

← Chapter 20 |  Chapter 22 →

20. Miranda Doesn’t Want to Make Friends

She whirls, furious, on Dr. Smith. “You’re setting me up on playdates now?”

“He’s around your age.”

“You just don’t want me hanging around Lye anymore because his continued hospitalization demonstrates how incompetent you are.”

“Did Lyman tell you that?”

As if he would! “He didn’t have to! I’m not an idiot!”

“Just show him around. Think of the privileges, Miranda.”

If she does it, she’ll get to borrow two books at a time from the library, so she yanks open the door and bares her teeth at the new boy. “Welcome to Oz. I’m Miranda. Nice to meet you.”

Where to Begin

← Chapter 19 |  Chapter 21 →

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

19. This is Shou, Afraid

When the nurse’s fingers brush against his skin as she removes the blood pressure cuff from his arm, he winces. She doesn’t notice.

“So where are you from?”

“New Jersey,” he rubs his arm where she touched him.

“No, where were you born?”

“New Jersey.” But he knows what she’s asking. “But my parents are from Japan.”

“That’s so exotic,” she croons.

A familiar anger swirls in his stomach, but he does his best to tamp it down before he does something he’ll regret later.

Then it’s back to his intake form. “How old?”


“How tall?”

He winces. “Five-three.”

Where to Begin

← Chapter 18 |  Chapter 20 →

18. Miranda and Clarke as Penpals


I don’t know what to tell you. There are splinters in our hands. What did you do this time? Also, we’ve got another psychiatry appointment the day after tomorrow (4/27), so I’m going to need full control on that day.


Hate it here. When are we leaving? – C


We’ll be here until our situation improves. We’re going to be put on a new Rx pending Dr analysis (tomorrow!!! don’t forget!!!), which should mitigate the mood swings. I doubt it’ll be too bad for you, but I’m letting you know anyway.


No more pills. Get us out. – C

Where to Begin

← Chapter 17 |  Chapter 19 →