Charred ruins on the hill
a rod through the gut.
Pictures of little girls in pink sweaters
hang on blackened walls.
Smile for the camera
and we always do.
Those who came before us didn’t.
With no running water or warm beds
AAAAI..(a stone warmed in the fire)
chopping wood in the blue black cold
for fire in the hearth, they looked at the camera
with stoic eyes and nobody made them smile.
After the fire my brother only wanted his bed,
his pillow, and a warm pair of socks.
Open to the sky, the chandelier is out of place
suspended from a crossbeam the firemen saved.
We slog up and down the basement steps,
water dripping on our heads to salvage what we can
from a fire that escaped the hearth.
In the beam of a flashlight distorted shadows
slide along the wall of a good foundation,
the dead furnace, the guts of the house.
The beam bounces off the ceiling like a ship at sea.
The house settles.
Stubborn flames break out
in the boy’s smoldering bedroom
NEEDd(he slept above the hearth)
and they call the trucks back.
I bury my nose in my coat. It smells like smoke.
Fire cleans, they say,
but we dig through the ash
refusing to believe how much we don’t need.