when your home is burning down

A poem in two parts.

Pt. I

I was born to this old and broken house

and now it sits, aflame,

and I weep.

we live in a mostly burning neighborhood;

we watch as we set our own fires;

we know we have been swimming in gasoline

since we moved in.

“why are you shocked?”


I see tenants flooding out

to other houses;

they pretend they do not live here,

that they weren’t there when we dropped the match,

that we were fine before the fire.

time is the only guarantee to its end.

and I weep.

Pt. II

there is a power from being scared,

unwelcome in your own home.

it hurt to find it.

and I promise

I will treat the burns and blisters and dry lungs;

I will help those engulfed by flame,

I will fight it for those whom it has trapped,

and me, too.

we are the only ones who can

keep ourselves from turning our home into ashes.

this fire may rage on, but

I will learn to breathe through smoke

and see between tongues of flame

and look for every fluff-filled crack in the walls,

the brittle stairs,

the leaking gas-pipes

even the soft spots where the foundation grew old,

and pull out my tools,

and work-

slowly. carefully.

making each 2×4 a little more safe,

a little less flammable for next time,

knowing that I will probably run out of breath,

that my work may be burned down too,

but also maybe rebuilding is best when

you’re being torn down

by what you’re most afraid of.

if we want anything but ash,

we must fix this house

before it burns down

what was left of the neighborhood, too.

and when the fire is gone, thank time,

we will have new pipes, walls, and windows,

and mop up the gasoline oceans from our floors,

and open our doors.

but we cannot forget to keep working.

this old and broken house raised us

with a fighting foundation.

the fire is our creation.

it will only destroy us

only if we let it.

Phoenix rising from flames (Credit: bulletin.swarthmore.edu)
Phoenix rising from the flames (Credit: bulletin.swarthmore.edu)


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