Bronx Fire

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My mother mopped my memories in mayhem, drowning our broken lives
in the ashy snow of the Bronx with the dirty walls of Camden.
She picked-up our dusted debris and assembled them into
a crumbling second story, no foundation. Her careful ironing
pressed and straightened to make sure no creases remained:
She would not confirm the fire, radiant, of my dreams.

I remember in my sleep. Heavy magnets stuck to the stove
drove me in, red arrows and yellow stars pointing to the turn and the push
of off-limit buttons. My mother at the door, the one hot flame
made of four leaping high. Outside it warmed up as we watched
the fire call on the neighbors, two stories, five stories, many stories burnt.

My mother liked the look of clean. She wanted a child who’s
socks met at the ankles,with fingernails like the new moon.
A buy-your-own-lego-set kind of boy, the one who’s glimmer
is never a secret. He’d earn a scholarship, a Ph.D, and the dirt and blood
would never stain his knees. I learned to tie my own shoelaces
when I was four years old. You are my sweet boy, my dumpling darling.
Mama didn’t want us to be extinguished by one night, so she submerged
everything in a deep recess, where the fire still burns.

 

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