“There Was No Fire” by Leila Jackson

Leila Jackson


this time or the next, no rules to ignore,
no chamber to load with one round and send
spinning, no knife pointing forward, no sirens
to duck, no people to swing at the head,
no eyes to make any more black than they’d
already been, there were no explosions at all,
no exit wounds to patch up the messiness for,
no lashes or hands that severed other hands.
Make no mistake, it was me. I ate the whole
thing. I splintered the wood. I grew teeth
to chew glass. I cleaned people’s clocks
’til they shone. My siblings said how’s it taste
and I called it a banquet and ate the dining table.
There was a kick from the belly, a learning
to run, an inhale of rain, a feast and the blindness
it made—but once I put it out, there was no fire.
In our defense, we were starving.

from Poets Respond


Leila Jackson: “For a few years now, I’ve been tracking major storms, and I was watching Beryl this week. I have family from the South and close friends from the Caribbean, so I’ve heard many firsthand stories about the devastation that Andrew, Katrina, Maria, etc. wrought on peoples’ homes and livelihoods. I wanted to personify a hurricane here because, unlike much of the other news we see, it’s completely out of human control (outside of the steps we can take to mitigate climate change).”

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