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Gathered, we watched flames
flickering and drawing us together.
It was hard to pull our eyes away.
Without knowing it, we formed a circle,
but many others in the outside ring
pressed us forward till we scorched our toes
and wanted to move back, but they kept pushing.
Marshmallows on a stick?
Of course. They were hungry.
Here, take it—burnt and crispy on the outside,
gooey and sweet and white and cool inside.
Then in a flash it was no longer
about confection and nourishment.
An ember leapt the circle
and caught, and hillsides, grass, and trees caught fire.
The circle opened out and came apart.
We all were running.
But where was there to run to?
Rachel Hadas is the author of many books, including Love and Dread (Measure, 2021).
Copyright 2021 Rachel Hadas. First published in The New Criterion. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.