Lance Larsen

To Fire
October 12, 2011 Larsen Lance

To Fire


In my backyard, huddled over my magnifying
glass, I kept you alive with lint and leaves
and unsuspecting ants.  You chewed
whatever I fed you—and begged for more.
Taking a lit match into the Taj Mahal

of my mouth, I’d let smoke leak from my nostrils
like the soul leaving the body.  Is this
what it means to burn?  The lucky dead,
including my seventh-grade boxing coach,
were not lowered into the maw of earth,

but loosed to air, thanks to you.
Following his funeral, his widow handed vials
to the gang of us he coached.  She wanted
us to scatter his dusky story wherever trees
combed the air and water lapped earth.

For weeks, I poured him palm to palm,
then released him into an evening gust—voice
into ash, growls and curses lifting in gray
rumor.  I too want to be buried in breeze.  I too
want to leave smoky tracks all over the sky.

Lance Larsen’s most recent book is Backyard Alchemy: Poems. His work has appeared in New York Review of Books, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Southern Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere.