Love / Poetry / Poets

BURNING by Philip Vermaas

I know more about fire than you do.
I’ve been burning
for close on forty years.

She ran up the steep slope
of her childhood home
when I couldn’t burn
the crumpled paper,
as promised,
with rays from the sun
through broken glass.

She ran to fetch her mother’s matches,
she secretly knew where they were,
and tore up that slope
in faded pink corduroys;
every fierce footfall
flicked ginger hair left and right,
and all only to spare me
feeling like a foolish boy.

Of the handful of seared mind-prints
I’ll take to the crematorium,
that will suffocate in the ashen urn,
watching her
–low on my knees, yearning–
charge up the garden,
limbs fortified by blunt trueness
to a would-be foolish boy,
it’s a print branded with the iron
that makes any old animal
someone’s until it’s fully fried.

We burned other things;
set fires,
one beneath the house.
She was my only sponsor,
the oxygen I devoured,
the flame-haired girl
who went bright
because I, used to coldness,
liked to watch things burn.

Adults snuffed out the two of us.

Thirty-four years later
I sparked
the currents of Firefox
and found her again,
close to, but not quite,
put out.

There she came,
full of drowning water,
doused down
by he with a
blunt-cock cutlass
polishing his gold-plated plank;
he who sails freely
against gentle pirates.

We rolled in a hot bed,
in catch-fire linen,
that same night;
our delayed play-date
thirty-four years on.
We knocked her shirt
onto the candle:
the room was alight.

We knew what was happening.

She was there first,
before the safety sayers
with wet blankets
and she’s back again,
lighting up.

The fire must be close:
flames in the night.
The sun burns for others.
We were made from match,
and, as always,
are hottest in cold nights.

Between the two of us
we smoke eighty a day.


4 thoughts on “BURNING by Philip Vermaas

  1. I couldn’t press the ‘Like’ button twice.

    You not only got me but you made me read it twice – as everyone will do, in disbelief at what your denouement achieved.

    This is one of the cleverest pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The language is exceeded only by the metaphor and the allusion is overwhelming. I congratulate you sir on this remarkable benchmark. Fan-bloody-tastic.

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