Claire McCulley

losing you to you [why we enter the burning house]

i. Like a building on fire, you appeared in my path. You were what all burning things are, hot and radiant, crackling with a force I cannot name. You were a comet speeding to earth, a malfunctioning two-stage rocket. I watched as you turned yourself inside out, as you were absorbed by the sky, as you detonated yourself in an act of destruction so powerful it created collateral art. I watched as you gave yourself up to ash. I was there.

ii. When a building is on fire, the first human instinct is to run away. But I ran toward you. I ran toward you, because I knew what things might be tucked within you. I ran toward you, because your heart deserved to pulled from the wreckage. I ran toward you, because I was not afraid, because I have been a burning building and I remember what it was like to be trapped inside myself, dissolving in the heat and the pain, toxic and dehumanized. I remember. So I ran toward you while everyone else ran in the opposite direction, and I put my hands on your windows, and I entered you.

iii. You were trembling in those flames, those flames I swept aside like curtains, looking for the salvageable. You were sad and raw and red and wonderful, surrounding me with your swollen hopes, bleeding words of venom and gentleness, a dichotomy of throbbing remorse. You blew out window panes and shook down doors. You shattered the roof, sent furniture tumbling. You howled at a moonless night, you agonized gloriously.

iv. I watched the pieces of you fly. The Tuesday night Hennessy, the poets you tried to understand, the I-am-not-scaredness of you, the pressure of your angry palms smacking the table, the movement of your legs, the ache of your voice, the bravado of your soul, all sent scrambling like grains of sand. I watched you contort, watched you turn quiet and strange, watched you forget things I still remember, things I cannot forget: the color of our laughter, the finding of trust, the promises you failed to keep, the dissolution of the invincible. I watched as you were, for one incredulous moment, so beautiful I couldn’t breathe. I stood at the core of you while you collapsed around me. I wept for you in ways I have wept for no one.

v. Like a building on fire, you appeared in my path. You ended the way all burning things do, falling, skeletal, to earth. Desperate. Brilliant. Gone.