It wasn’t the splinters

plucking fabric in the crook of my arm

that made me hate collecting kindling.

It was becoming Pavlov’s dog — the anticipation

of wadding newspapers,

of opening the damper

of combustion.

Fire was our family

attempt to moth ourselves together.

Mom, cross stitching in her own circle of light.

Dad, orbiting with a cigarette, already

glowing red. All of us

passing by the blaze

in intervals

before moving away

as another made their approach.

I would sit on my hands, squeeze my eyes

and count to three. Tap out three with my toe,

and repeat it all again. Seized

by the urge to throw

my teddy bear

into the fire,

to grab the poker and roll a log

across the hearth, and onto the carpet. Those nights,

I’d go to bed as the flames died, clenching the blankets

in my fists while people slept —

while embers glowed

in an empty room.

Lorrie Ness is a poet writing in a rural corner of Virginia. When she’s not writing, she can be found stomping through the woods, watching birds and playing in the dirt. Her work can be found in numerous journals, including THRUSH, Palette Poetry and Sky Island Journal. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2021 and her chapbook, “Anatomy of a Wound” was published by Flowstone Press in July of 2021.