Sous Rature





Thomas Devaney




The Gift of Fire

Here is something you were not planning.
When the fire actually came you decided
    to stay put.
All you felt was the urge to run.
But calmness comes at odd moments.
Yes there was black smoke blowing past
    the back window.
And yes, there was mighty banging on the door.
The upstairs Italian neighbors yelling "get out."

There are decisions that happen in a split second,
and those you ponder. But it's true, failing to act
    is an act itself.
A fire truck and another jerk to a full stop.
More follow, red and red lights, the grinding
    of the diesel engines.
What is in is going out and what is out
    is coming in.
In heavy smoke and flame who can tell whom apart?

There were days before the fire when you noted
the visible shadows made of invisible kindling.
Now a whole city block of windows reflect the glow.
You have no time to run.
The alarming tiny pill that helps to mute the alarms,
is but another tiny, white, perfectly split
    down-the-middle smoke screen.
For when you dream you finally know who you are.
One is not built for the infinite.
And when the birds don't fly away why should you?

Note how pigeons on the phone wires all face front
    and look in.
Watch the motion of a flame in the wind from close.
The view intercepted by a cloud, and a loud
    and vaporous bull horn.
And all continues out and everything in –
No bounds, no distinctions, yes, perversely
    you trade smoke for skin.
And the firemen, and then the police.
The police have arrived later than you expected,
though screaming in familiar tones.
And in the most damning moment you scream back for help.