A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
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.