I once set a house on fire; it was abandoned and boarded up.
The neighborhood boys had already broken the glass panes
behind the plywood with stones. Things go badly for an old house;
this one was paintless, the clapboard siding a woodsy gray.
Black streaks bled through from the resin in the cedar
where the nails were hammered into the studs. I lit a match
in a hole where the utility box had been ripped out. The house filled
with smoke and seemed to come alive as it groaned and popped;
then flames shot out from both sides at once and the roof sagged,
and my eyes watered and I blinked to clear my vision. I had to turn
and run away. And if there were sirens, I would have remembered.
I think there were none. In every story thereís a lie. Some call this a turn.
Hereís one: I washed my face and hands when I got home and left
soot prints on the fancy guest towels my mother put out for show,
I used my fatherís lavender laced aftershave to cover up my smell.
And hereís some of the truth, I learned that day that water means life
and that fire is an abstract idea. Being 13 years old,
this seemed important.