Observing the Arsonist
by Colette Jonopulos
Long sigh of a summer worn thin
from brush fires you’ve conjured
for the camera. You’ve devoured the hillsides,
left wretched smell of pulp and water,
remnants of people’s trash.
—you know even after you turn away, they are talking about you
Your work appears stark in black and white ash.
Whir of your unseen shutter, each frame
singed at the edges of loss the width
of your childhood.
We are on fire
in our separate houses,
lit from too much harboring,
our containment explosive.
Can you hear the train’s whistle from there?
Metal on metal clacking, smooth on
Say it again but louder: this is how it should be
children sleeping fitfully while wild grasses
sway in soft evening air
everything unharmed and eternal
love without end
Dogs have snapped their chains,
run to piles of your refuse, charred
compost broken down to silt.
It is yours to dream of, yours to
pick through and hoard.
I am watching you watch your ruins
through a lens with many eyes.
I am handing you a glass jar
to fill with ash, the tiny
bones of animals.
—this is not a gift
You strike the match along a memory of grief,
a childhood you did not know, and I forgive
you. And what you want is not forgiveness
but heat that burns away the house, the
hands, the breath, the body plundered.
Fire begins in the corner, no one
notices until it has crawled the walls.
A fire, a train whistle, so alike. Both bite
through us, only one devours
our houses as we sleep.
Colette Jonopulos writes and edits in Denver, Colorado. She hikes in the Rocky Mountains as often as possible, and spends her summers camping and investigating backroads. Her poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Alimentum, Clackamas Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Bellingham Review, cho, Presence and Ekphrasis. She is co-editor and co-owner of Tiger’s Eye Press.