Vox Populi

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Carolyne Whelan: Fire Walker

When the lights went out on Swinburne Street,

little fox, you were a coruscating brilliance

in our dark. My bike against the railing, I hovered—

shitty guardian angel who would not protect you

from current or curiosity, my own bolting.

The power line wrapped around you in a sparked circle,

your temenos, as your red tail twitched to the spark

of electric current it carried. Where did you think

you were headed before finding this temptation

of heat and dervish? We can only ever end up

where we are, and I’m sorry for this street

that slithers through the wilderness of the city

you thought we’d abandoned.


You are an ouroboros, but the fire is my oubliette.

Try as I might I can remember nothing

but the cruel night I watched—we all watched—

the man in the driver’s seat burn, thrash, try

his pathetic handle, the door molded

shut with a heat only metals know. The fire fighters

for some reason tried the trunk and I

tried to keep walking, but I couldn’t. I stayed—


we all stayed— and watched him die, his screams

just audible beyond the brilliant roar of the fire,

the pointless sirens since quit, none of us talked,

except to ourselves, Oh, just so awful, and my

poor groceries near spoiled from the heat

in my backpack, a fire on a summer’s night, and however long


I waited for the show to end, the thrashing to finally cease,

so I knew what to tell my friends later, how to feel

about the deaths I’ve seen before or since, about you,

little fox, your eyes blinking. I knew it had to be

the electricity pulsing through, but I hoped, just a little,

you were okay in that suspended shock. At home

my alarm clock, microwave, wall clock

all flashed 12:00 12:00 12:00, your telltale heartbeat.


Copyright 2018 Carolyne Whelan

Carolyne Whelan is a writer, poet, and bicyclist who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2018 by in Environmentalism, Poetry and tagged , , .

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