December 15, 2017

In the yard, in the biting frost of a winter night,
a son behind the soft plaid robes of his mother
hides from the light. Come here Baby,
Give me a hug, Give Mommy a hug.
Everything will be just fine.
His mother’s eyes puffy and cheeks dried with tears as she watches
the flames lap higher, move from room to room to room,
engulf curtains, books, plastic dinosaur toys.
The tears from the boy stop now, and he whispers
I love you Mama. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to.
Jasper and I were only playing but his tail knocked the candle over.
Regret and fear slowly pervade his speech.
I wanted to put it out quickly.
I got a glass of water and I didn’t spill a drop --
a wind-chilled shudder -- it was too fast Mommy,
I couldn’t stop the fire.
The father pipes in: it’s okay Buddy, we know.
It can happen to anyone it isn’t your fault --
the boy stops his whimpering and suddenly he’s silent,
A victim of Medusa.
He turns to watch the flames over his mother’s shoulder,
each lick of the fire suddenly eliciting a different reaction:
Joy. Alleviation. He knows exactly what he did.
They’d never know and he’ll keep it hidden deep within himself,
the truth of what happened that night.
He speaks within his head, you got him back, he’s earned all of this.
Every last smoldering chunk of picture frame and bedpost.
His mood light he continues to himself:
I did good, I did good, I did good.
The one person who was supposed to protect him,
But became an abuser, had been repaid with an equally perverse son.
The one who was supposed to stay away from candles - but didn’t.
He had fought fire with fire: the flames finally burned away
the individual sheets of trauma that had suffocated his heart.

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