We needed fire
to feed our young minds
so we took an axe,
to the Alabama woods
and hacked fallen oak
til our blisters bled,
but we were no boy scouts.

With a starter log,
we began the burning
but were taken aback
by how fast the forest
closed in on our campsite
as the sky darkened.

The fire grew as it fed—
We rose from rusty lawnchairs
to hurl limb after limb,
sculpting the flicker
into a mighty flame.

We stared at each other,
our eyes flashing,
not faces of wonder,
but faces of hunger.
For hours we fed it,
as the fire grew larger,
licking out beyond
its stone enclosure.

We didn’t know
how to make it die,
this thing we had spawned,
or how little it cared
for its makers.
And when the profits of our axework
were spent, we went home
and watched TV.

How could we have known
that the frame of that old house
on Route 402
our guilty secret
was the grave of that girl
we saw on the milk carton,
or how the burning roof
had caved in as she cowered,
like loose sand through fingers?