Flare Up

by Alan Soldofsky

Alan Soldofsky

Something's burning behind the house you say
dragging the words out from deep in your mouth.
There's a glow in the tops of the oaks
that stud the hills with their gnarled chains.

You learned how to move without thinking
when it smells like lightning has seared its black,
initials around a gash in the bark
of the Douglas fir behind our house,

When you run to the bathroom in the night
it feels like the floor's sunk one foot. Not enough
water pressure, the leaking sink with its
rust-stained faucet oozing a worm's trail

on the porcelain. What item from your history
will you retrieve as you rush into your clothes,
while night plunges its singed needles
into your neck? Why is it what you want

most is the very thing that you have lost?
You can't even find your breath, heavy with
a grist of soot and carbon. You can expect
every mistake leads to something worse.

How do you decide what to save as the heat
edges closer, sparks flying over the road,
cinders setting the air ablaze. Your face lined
with creosote. What's valuable enough to take?

You cover your mouth, but find no sanctuary
from the ashes that land on your car, that cling
to your hands as you pack your belongings.
You hear it now, the crackling that replaces

birdsong. A dazzling tempest of fire
bears down everywhere and arrives
with a whoosh. You have to leave now, you say
to yourself. Leave. Leave these words for the flames.

Last updated November 03, 2022