November hymnal (26) / Lines written while waiting to hear about a house fire
Outside in the dark there was a picture the shape of a window
Projected on the house next door. Within the frame a slow
Motion dancing of slender orange and shadow
Like plants swaying at the bottom of the ocean.
Still not fully awake, maybe like a deep sea diver gesturing
In slow motion through the stuff of sleep, I got up knowing
The light was a projection from my daughters’ room.
I floated down the hall, my feet were still fins, awareness
Being fed to me by a tank strapped to my back.
I reached the doorway and saw the lamp on fire
Between their beds on the night table. It twisted like
An orange octopus rising up but not moving in the utter
Silence of two girls sleeping without knowledge of
Death. That’s when my mind scrambled onto land.
I woke them and whispered them out of the room
To their mother. Pulled the night table away from the curtain
Kicked the cord from the socket. I froze
Staring at it for a second, still a small thing that
Swerved as if it had a right to exist
And grow to the size of a house.
Then I had a bucket in my hand and
That’s when I drowned it. Then I ran
To the bathroom and filled the bucket again
And a few times more then it was a bucket of black
Smoke and I was standing in water I could hear
Myself cough as if under the surface and my family was on the porch
Below and it was winter and the cold air surged
Up the stairs to the bedroom as I opened the windows
Like a genie ready to grant a wish of burning
Free of form like a color dancing from a magic lamp
I can imagine two reactions – one of frantic panic, the other of remote detachment – both providing an autopilot response driven by the desire to protect. This seems like the latter, but I suspect it is as much the former. Either way, it has my heart racing.
I will not forget that night. I feel we were all pretty fortunate that all we lost was a lamp and a night table.
Oh, yes. Indeed!
That was close. The underwater feeling you evoke makes the telling of the story superb.
Intriguing synchronicity with reflection waking you … this leaves me shuddering.