How Fire Spreads to the House By Jill Mceldowney

How Fire Spreads to the House

The most dangerous distraction is

a match,

an orchard,
the unsprung snare of my body.

Pardon my wild—

my bad,
my brutal

I think—

Alter me a little.

Give me a mirror so that I can watch
a man’s love create something terrible.

I could be animal natured, horse natured, you natured. I could answer the question:

“What have you done?

I started this fire on purpose.
My body is the weapon I use to say:

“Fill this house with kerosene.”

come back stranger still.
I am burning all the love stories—let history begin with us
undressing in two places at once.

I’m wearing the clothes of the dead.

I’m speaking it—the purpose of your name to
the candles left burning in an empty room, a circle of sulfur drawn—
here, right here where love is a ceremony.

I could have the domesticity that I despise, I could
make blood
sacrifice and I know there is sacrifice—
I could

give up my life like a Christ for you,

my this for you,

my very I for you.

Instead, I choose
that kiss from the Bible:

temptation, teeth—

spun through a bathroom doorway
up against the kind of mirror through which the dead speak—

let the dead speak

let them trace my lineage to the first seraphim to saunter audaciously downward.

If my body recalls the dead,
I can feel her weariness of same
in the carbon monoxide binding
to the iron in my blood.

What I hunt, what is in the mirror, what now hunts me back—

time’s mirage and the old high
way of love, the flare of blood across

the cliché of glass,

fuck me up against the glass while our house burns down—

“My ghostly dear, my pretty haunt, what else could I have done, being what I am?”

I am the woman at a mirror with a weapon,
a house on fire has a clock of its own, and

you thought you could tame anything.

By Jill Mceldowney


Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook Airs Above Ground (Finishing Line Press) as well as Kisses Over Babylon (dancing girl press). She is an editor and cofounder of Madhouse Press. She is also a recent National Poetry Series Finalist. Her previously published work can be found in journals such as Muzzle, Fugue, Vinyl, the Sonora Review, Prairie Schooner, and other notable publications.

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