Apr 12, 2011

The Smoke

Written by Bruce Snider

Read by Van K. Brock

Past houses, past pickers and bone-cleaners, 
	rats and carrion birds, alley cats clawing 

out fish heads from the trash, the smoke 
	rose, a black river shivering. It rose 

past Churubusco and Wawasee, Goose Lake 
	and Big Cedar, past the steer calf 

grinding its bud-teeth, and the dogs 
	that stopped barking to sniff the air.

As it traveled, it carried the boy 
	who started it all, flames climbing 

his sleeve to his collar to the baseball cap 
	dazzling now on his head. It carried 

his screams past the gutted warehouse, 
	past Max's Metal, Iron & Scrap. It rose 

into combines, filling the dead machines. 
	One hair at a time, it rose with his waxen 

face, eyes and skin spilling into weather, 
	fields, crops, the peach trees withering, 

fruit darkened, maggot at the root. 
	It rose where nothing else could: 

into attic crevices, into dreams of people 
	sleeping in their beds. It blackened 

the steps of the Baptist Church 
	where later the congregation would pray 

for the match struck just to watch it flare 
	in the darkness, for the way a body is lifted 

smoking from the grass, for the trees —
	how they flickered outside the window —

for all that would be remembered: 
	the dirt road's grieving, the harvest time, 

the sewing of the seeds, for the season 
	they knew would follow through Autumn's 

blazing maples, through the poplar and ash.