Birmingham, 1963

Her eyes are wide and locked in place. Her mouth
is fixed into a twisted open scream,
as if what she's screaming at is right in front
of her - except she's turned around the wrong
way, her unseen back facing the burning house,
a cube of pure white fire. Already all
the wood has been devoured from windows, doors,
and porch, so I can't understand what keeps
the crumbling red brick walls consumed in flames.
I want to step into the charred frame of this picture
and approach the fireman, who with one arm
half pushes and half supports the woman as
they scramble clumsily away, his thick
fireman's coat shielding them both from the heat,
to tell him that it won't do any good
to lead her any further from the vision
of her house burning in the crackling night:
it has already been seared deep into
her very retina, its bright imprint
flashing now as it will flash forever.

Luke Meisner