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In Alabama we needed firewood,
so we bought an axe, and chopped
the fallen oak until our blisters bled.
But we are no boyscouts,
a starter log began the burning.
As the dark forest closed in
the campsite evaporated
like the moisture hissing
and popping from the soggy wood.

The fire grew as it ate,
until we were left with nothing
but a pale face, licked with orange.
We rose from our chairs, to poke
the loose wood, sculpting the flame.
Soon new faces appear in the chaos,
and memory follows. The mind's opera
always arrives in silence.

For hours, we stared into our creation,
unwilling to let it die, or let the past
fade into ash. Knowing how little
it cared for history. When the profits
of our axework were spent, we played
tic-tac-toe in the black
and orange embers, childs play
on Prometheus's chess board.

On country route 402 I saw the frame
of an old house, black and scarred.
Five brick pillars survived, standing
with dark plaster at their peaks,
fingers through which the burning roof
had fallen like loose sand.

We needed fire
to feed our young minds
so we took an axe,
to the Alabama woods
and hacked fallen oak
til our blisters bled,
but we were no boy scouts.

With a starter log,
we began the burning
but were taken aback
by how fast the forest
closed in on our campsite
as the sky darkened.

The fire grew as it fed—
We rose from rusty lawnchairs
to hurl limb after limb,
sculpting the flicker
into a mighty flame.

We stared at each other,
our eyes flashing,
not faces of wonder,
but faces of hunger.
For hours we fed it,
as the fire grew larger,
licking out beyond
its stone enclosure.

We didn’t know
how to make it die,
this thing we had spawned,
or how little it cared
for its makers.
And when the profits of our axework
were spent, we went home
and watched TV.

How could we have known
that the frame of that old house
on Route 402
our guilty secret
was the grave of that girl
we saw on the milk carton,
or how the burning roof
had caved in as she cowered,
like loose sand through fingers?

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