Brendan Walsh
the maddest i’ve ever seen my mother
was after she found out i’d built a fire
behind the shed at steve’s house.

it was the biggest fire we’d ever seen--
taller than our dads, wider than both of us
shoulder-to-shoulder, and when steve

fed it squirts of lighter fluid it waved
like an audience of hands; we offered
pine twigs and oak leaves, scraps of paper.

it was a secret like so many other things
boys take to fester in the shaded forests
and backyards of wooded cul-de-sacs.

my mom learned about our pet fire
through the mystery of intuition; i coughed up
truth and smoke the second she asked,

then she grew angry like wildfire spread
corner-to-corner of the kitchen––maybe i wouldn’t play
with fire after she’d taken me to the burn ward,

maybe i wouldn’t relish the soft heat
once i’d seen how carelessly it eats skin and muscle
from the undeveloped faces of little boys.

so i never built fire with steve again,
refused to let matches grow monstrous, though
i craved creation doubled as destruction,

like those ancestors who’d carried lightning
from bellies of struck trees and manufactured
an entire planet of flame.
Brendan Walsh has lived and taught in South Korea, Laos, and South Florida. His work appears in Glass Poetry, Indianapolis Review, Baltimore Review, Wisconsin Review, American Literary Review, and other journals. He is the author of four books, including Go (Aldrich Press) and Buddha vs. Bonobo (Sutra Press). He’s online at

More by Brendan Walsh: concussion fragment #1.5