Searching for shelter from the hesitant rain
& crowds of frat boys with windblown
shirts & cigarettes blazing,
we stumble into a courtyard of stained glass
windows of a city burning
& I tell you that my family was accused
by name of possessing
the lantern that ate its way through Chicago,
devouring a green swell of parks & burbling sidewalks,
licking children’s foreheads as they slept.
Fire’s flicker by ancient instinct has always seemed
a morsel of some good thing, some yellow promise
like a notebook patterned in sunflowers,
but I understand the easy
balloon & crumple of a home,
frenzied sadness unraveling in flames.
Conflagration of veins slumbering fuchsia
& the burning is every burning that ever was.
The legend of a some-great aunt’s negligent arson
is of questionable fact but has left me on paint-streaked desperate
streets with a head full of coarse ghosts cleaving the sunlight.
That I inherited the shattered lantern
that gutted a city’s chest, that pillar of flames baying,
feels an honesty. Emotionally true, like a long-buried melody
shirking from reach— some adolescent flood of stars
in a sweaty truck cab, or faint shimmer
across a memory of an autumn porch, thunder
the color of marrow, tender gift of a hand
placed in the small of your back—a song
you can’t quite find by humming, but you can taste
the blurry edge of bittersweet fig & longing, can nearly
smell cinnamon charred into the skin of passersby.