Fire

by Adrienne Rich

In the old city incendiaries abound
who hate this place stuck to their footsoles
Michael Burnhard is being held and I
can tell you about him   pushed-out and living
across the river   low-ground given to flooding
in a shotgun house
his mother working for a hospital
or restaurant   dumpsters   she said a restaurant
hospital cafeteria who cares
what story
you bring home with the food

I can tell you Michael knows beauty
from the frog-iris in mud
the squelch of ankles
stalking the water-lily
the blues beat flung across water from the old city

Michael Burnhard in Black History Month
not his month only when he was born there
not black and almost without birthday one
February 29 Michael Burnhard

on the other side of the river
glancing any night at his mother’s wrists
cross-hatched raw
beside the black-opal stream

Michael Burnhard still beside himself
when fire took the old city
lying like a black spider on its back
under the satellites and a few true stars

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