Miranda Field


The spark struck in secret under the stairs, in dust

in the cellar, smolders the way a face does, and the life

inside it, after a slap.  A humiliation, stains


on the floor of a caged thing’s cage.  In dust

in the cellar where out bicycles lean

broken-antlered in the dark.  Among molds


in the cellar where the cat, swollen with poison

curls in the damp to extinguish herself.  It’s dark outside;

inside the dark becomes particles a little like rain


stilled.  Behind chicken-wired glass the garden

shakes a few dead leaves down.  Most of winter’s work is done,

the pond lidded, the ruts of the bicycles wheels


cast in iron.  The fire begins by itself, a breathing-life-into,

a kindling:  cells of our skin, soil from the garden;

tinder for the fire’s insistence.  The fire has been impatient


to begin all along.  The house its accomplice.

Roots of the black walnut hold tight the foundations,

hence nothing grows here, nothing flourishes.


But flames brush the root hairs, make them stand in end.

Like a story’s ending, not quite to wake us is the fire’s

intention.  To stroke us with its smoke, our sleeping faces.




“Housefire” is from Swallow (Mariner Books, 2002).