Tiger Tiger Burning Bright
The Word: Burn
The burn you burn when the covers are stripped, exposing you just as you are.
The burn you burn when people look everywhere but the burned girl screaming down the middle of the road, her hair on fire.
The burn you burn when the hand the touch the smile comes near.
The burn you burn when the book electrifies through your eyeballs, the painting melts right off the wall, the aria explodes in your chest like a chrysanthemum.
The burn you burn when the book is famous but stinks, the art’s a fraud, the singer’s just a box of cereal, to be sold and sold and sold.
The burn you burn when they tear down your coffee house, the one where everyone went, with the great food and a bitchin’ patio, that had a no cell phone policy, all to build a few luxury condos.
The burn you burn when they don’t even build the condos, so there it sits, a vacant lot full of ailanthus and shame.
The burn you burn when flamenco guitars begin to play and weathered hands clap out the rhythm and a dignified old lady gets up to dance.
The burn you burn when they don’t let you merge.
The burn you burn when the review is bad.
The burn you burn when the teacher hates your kid.
The burn you burn when the ex writes a memoir.
The burn you burn when your mother doesn’t know you anymore.
The burn you burn when other people are touring the five clifftowns of Italy.
The burn you burn at a party when you stand by the food and nobody talks to you.
The burn you burn when the letter finally says Yes. You read it twice before it bursts into flame.
The burn you burn when the Muse whispers her secrets into your ear.
The burn you burn dancing at a cousin’s wedding, amazed you still remember how to Pony, Slide, Slauson.
The burn you burn for the skyline of Manhattan.
The burn you burn watching Leonard Cohen fall to his knees.
The burn you burn hearing Patti Smith sing Gloria.
The burn you burn for the rice terraces of Bali.
The burn you burn for the boy with the tanned face and laughter in his eyes.
The burn you burn leaving school in the middle of the day. You vow your whole life will be like that, that kind of freedom.
The burn you burn sitting in front of Victoria Station with all your bags and nobody’s there to greet you.
The burn you burn when your husband walks six feet in front of you all through what turns out to be your last vacation together.
The burn you burn when your daughter doesn’t like the sad horse stories you’ve saved up for thirty years to someday show a daughter.
The burns you burn
Since you were born.
For approval and awards and roses and applause.
For your own voice to be heard, no matter what.
For embraces for sex for beauty for transcendence.
There are religions about removing those fires.
They see it as freedom.
All that suffering, that rage, that ecstasy.
Wouldn’t we be better off without?
But human life is combustion.
Here is my prayer:
Let me burn until my fires all go out.
Let me burn until I can burn no more.
Part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories–and poems!–based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: SHOOT