Today's poem is by Carrie Fountain

Starting Small

At sunset on the Fourth of July,
just as the Shriners shot off
their fireworks

over the football stadium
the first McDonald's in Las Cruces

switched on its lights
and opened its doors

and shone there harshly against
the nothing, like a shrine

to itself, and that same evening
by some act of grace
the vacant lot across the street

caught on fire, starting small
and gaining, tossing everything—every
weed and paper cup

into its sack of flames
and keeping it.

We were children.
We'd walked three miles to get there.
We'd walked across the interstate
just like we said we wouldn't.

And what a pleasure—
I'm tempted to say what a relief
to see it: fire

dancing around in front of us
like a trained animal.

We ate our burgers on the sidewalk.
They were allright.

Behind us, into the great ear
of the sky, America was explaining
its independence
the best way it knew how.

We knew very little, almost

though, at some point that evening
my brother leaned in

and said with the satisfaction of someone
who has won a long on-going argument:

            this is a miracle.

His mouth was an O
of grease and ketchup.

He looked—I'm tempted to say
like an angel.

He looked like
he'd never recover.

We were children.
We were waiting to be told
what to do.

The fire lifted its tongue
as if to speak, then fell over
and kept burning.

It got late.
We walked home along the ditch
kicking each other, tired
of each other's company.

We grew up.

I left; my brother stayed;
the desert sagged.

Behind the mountain
they kept making bombs,
got better at it, made more.

Something big was built
on that vacant lot, something
that wasn't big enough

and was torn down
so something bigger
that would go immediately out of business
could take its place.

Now I see what he meant.
The miracle
wasn't the fire.

The miracle was no one
called the fire department,
no one thought to,

and the miracle was that, allowed
to continue, the fire grew,
caught up with itself

every few yards
and grew. And the miracle was
no one stopped it, and the miracle was

no one wanted to stop it.

Copyright © 2007 Carrie Fountain All rights reserved
from Cimarron Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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