A car—or truck—down the street, 
Was riled in red flames—
Like an unkempt superwick 
On a s’mores-scented candle— 
When I arrived back home from 
The airport last night. 
Traffic backed up for miles. 
Red and blue lights filled  the 
Otherwise clear, star-lit 
Night sky, booming pyrotechnics. 

I was a long week away: 
Dodging bold blizzards 
And TSA sick-outs, and 
General, unfocused malaise 
Of workaday frustrations, 
And frozen sidewalks, 
A rental car that shook 
At 68 miles per hour due 
To impacted snow in 
The passenger-front chrome wheel well.  

And your car wasn’t there, and 
The driveway was bare; 
I knew that you had to be 
Safe, at work, enduring your  
Own workaday frustrations. 
But I didn’t know, 
How long it’d been burning 
Or, where you were:  home?—surprise!— 
And my heart mis-beat out, with 
Loss weighted down by dread of loss. 

I dwelt on the horrors of 
A death in fire’s grip: 
The searing pain; silenced  
By the caustic cloud, choking 
Unable to scream or cry: 
Skin sizzling, last gasps. 
A hell before heaven, 
Praying for those they’ll leave, 
Tears evaporating, 
Un-doused, inextinguishable. 

Neighbors lined the cracked sidewalks, 
Cellphone cameras raised, 
Capturing strangers’ terrors, 
Obscuring flames with bright screens, 
And then the hoses finally 
Let loose salvation 
Too late: the flames became  
Clouds of grey smoke against 
A black palette, souls charred 
In a lump of steamed, steel charcoal.  

Gathering up the luggage 
I’d left on the porch, 
I greeted the two feline 
Purr machines that raced between 
my legs, rubbing their 
Ears against ankles; 
When I sat, busy cats 
Kneaded bread. I waited, 
While I could—half awake, 
Couch-bound—watching for your headlights. 

And I sparked up a small bowl— 
Puffed a one-hitter— 
And poured a tall Maker’s Mark, 
And I re-watched the footage 
I’d captured and sent to you 
To make sure you’d know 
To avoid the traffic. 
And when you shook my foot, 
When you kissed me good night 
I thanked God a little: a lot. 


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