The Burning Girl

On the family farm we used all
the flammables. Kerosene. Gasoline. Diesel.
I could light each, with a quick, an expert touch.
I knew how to scorch and burn.
I knew how high, how low to let
the fire burn. Garbage cans.
Brush piles. Leaves. Fallow fields.
Abandoned houses. Old tires.
Dead cows. Each one had a different look,
a different smell. I learned to clean the messes up—
to shovel ash, gray powder, black, flakes, ruined
stumps, melted rubber, charred bones. I swept up.

Of course, my mother wanted
cremation. We knew fire so well.
Her ashes smudged all over me.
With one breeze, a fire can alter,
take a deadly, unexpected turn.
The summer leaves shifted;
mother, ash now, blew into my eyes, my nose,
my hair. The cancer burned nothing now.

I am so tired of tending fires. This poem
scares me—because I am uttering
the unsaid: this will most likely
be my fate. I have the same
cells; I share her mutated genes.
The multiplication may have already started;
the burning running through my bones.
Another fire, another death.
I prepare for my cremation.
I swear I see the smoldering.
Unless, of course, I’m wrong.
Fires are so fucking tricky.