Mount Vernon, NY, summer 2001
Sitting on the concrete steps in the back of my grandma’s house,
our dad shows us how to burn paper
with a magnifying glass. Says people kill ants this way,
how cruel it is. It was true: the magnifying glass’s gaze
conjured a fire. We didn’t ask the science,
just admired the concentration of miraculous light.
The paper turned into herself,
repeatedly, as if trying to escape
the fire, and her retreat (further, further)
would bring the paper to her core, to a spring
that would quell the consumption,
cool her tongue. My dad saw nothing cruel,
here. Saw himself doing the right thing. Teaching
us how to destroy. How at times,
I’ll see a woman and my skin starts to burn.