Everywhere the fire is building
into something that eats like a man.
I watch the trees pull flames into roots
and wonder how long it can burn
underground, buried with decomposing
skulls and nothing left to swallow down.
I try to forget where the heat comes from,
focus instead on the bones of a dead cat.
To fight the urge to arrange its legs into a sprint,
paws spread to pounce on my own exposed throat,
is the only way I know to survive.
Still there are days when the sun is so hot
I take a magnifying glass to dry leaves,
let the light amass into tempting ways to kill.
An army of leafcutters torched beside our car,
a massacre of microscopic limbs,
this insatiable need to watch myself ignite.
This is what they mean when they say
we’ve all been cursed,
an ember in our gut an incineration risk.
There are wildfires lit in the baseball fields,
bonfires I want to throw myself into.
Let them cauterize my unsealed chest, end me
with cremation into mountain peaks of ash,
smolder for the ants to come and bury their dead.
Christen Noel Kauffman lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. Her work can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, The Normal School, and The McNeese Review, among others.