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Early July

ISSUE:  Spring 2004

As the Rialto burned
I stood across the street
in front of the dry goods store

less awake than asleep, the siren
having persisted until
everyone in Harper County, I swear,

stood filling a block-long stretch
on Main Street,
some in pajamas, it being early

July, only one day removed
from the jubilant cacophony
of cracker and rocket and buzz bomb,

and when someone said it was
probably leftover fireworks that did it
I believed him,

and someone else in a whisper
loud enough to be heard
blamed an arsonist, no doubt a Baptist

doing what God justifiably moved
him to do, movies
being the handiwork of Satan,

I believed that more so, because the flames
looked like hell
described by my Sunday school teacher,

and the lights and shadows cast
by the inferno mades the faces
around me more demonic than eerie,

our local firemen meanwhile
swamping shouts and admonitions
as they directed long ropes of water

into the crackling maw of the conflagration
until nothing but anyone’s guess
remained, nothing tomorrow to do

but rummage, maybe find something
of value only as a reminder
of how beautiful heaven must be.


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