Michael Lauchlan


My neighbor is burning things
and sitting close enough to be warmed
by a shock of color that tears

the longest night in what
we’ll recall as the year it all
came apart. Even our verbs

are ashen. The fire’s turning
and turning as she feeds it
old boxes and branches snapped

in the last wind. She might be thinking
of the moody guy who sits on her porch
and stares at his phone. She might

hope that next month or next
year she’ll get by on two jobs
instead of three. I walk the dog

and see my neighbor letting fire
do what it’s always done—
destroy trash, peel bark,

unlock the grain of limbs, and draw
us near as it shimmies and curls
before our eyes. Sparking neurons,

the furnaces in skin cells, even
the long hidden sun—all burn
in tune with backyard havoc.

Picture a lit scrap wafting toward
my garage roof. Weigh the cost
of tools against the thrill—a blaze
recharged by flash fuel—scraps
of lumber, popping gas cans
and wheelbarrow tires—a blaze

charring lawn mowers, shovels, saws
and drills—flames bright enough
to dent our vast darkness.

Michael Lauchlan

has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Harpur Palate, and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press.