The Burned House
When I wasn’t looking, the house burned down,
the one standing on the cliff’s edge that just sucked in the smoke
and died. It was tall and full of mirrored rooms, that house
I used to own, each one a tank in which some dreamfish swam in fire,
where liquid light flickered on scales of gold and copper, now white
lumps of half-burned bone, refleshed with sudden coats of ash.
How were these soul aquaria so full of life transformed to ash?
to flecks crisped from scorched love letters blown down
the drive, black ink bleeding on blue paper burned feathery white?
Your words to me, mine to you, became a script of smoke
ribboning envelopes all set alight to fuel this chemical fire
that when my head was turned burned down the house.
Blackened beams are everywhere, obscene stumps of house
frame arching possibilities negated. Nothing made of ash
can be reused. I turn over scant remains uneaten by the fire
that swallowed up the core and spit out shingles, flying down
in flaps of flame, exhaling heat while carcinogenic smoke
billowed from gapped window mouths in plumes of restless white.
When it happened I was working a new bed for the Sonata White
cosmos, but purity failed; fire’s finger drew a circle round the house
of C. sulphureus instead, yellow petals aster bright, tangerine smoke
drifted against the lintel wild alive, drawing all being from that ash
rich compost of dreamfish dying in char as the building came down;
now where the white rebelled I fill my hand with redgold fire.
So I come to the doorway drawn by the long gone glow of fire
to rake through the dulled nails and teeth of white
half-melted yesterdays, look for the last inhabitants down
beneath the rotten timbers where the dead house
trembles, gives up its bones and sleeps in ash.
I pick and fuss at the ruins, filling my bag with smoke:
photographs once kodachrome stained to sepia, smoke
colored faces turned to relics, eyeholes eaten black by fire
unreal as the fingerbone of a non-existent saint, grey as ash
and as unlikely to reignite; trinkets charred to white
misshapen in the reflux of the firehose, lockets that house
a tarnished twist of burnt hair muddied by walls long fallen down.
My insurance covers none of this lost substance, now white ash,
a total loss except for cosmos smoke, gold-warm as any fire,
banked embers over the open house of the wild that can’t burn down.
Posted for FormForAll at dVerse Poets Pub
Cosmos is a perennial or half-hardy annual in the aster family, native to Mexico, Arizona, Florida and the southern U.S. down into Central and South America. It grows in both wild and cultivated form. It is heat and drought tolerant and reseeds itself so freely some forms, including C. sulphureus, are considered a weed in some places. Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sonata White" is a pure white hybrid form, bred for the cut flower trade.
Photo: Cosmos bipinnatus "Sonata White" by Julie Anne Workman, Forde Abbey, Somerset, UK
courtesy wikipedia Par Julie Anne Workman (Travail personnel) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons