local_library The Way Fire Talks to Wood

by Christine Boyka Kluge

Published in Issue No. 116 ~ January, 2007

In front of me in line, a man hisses at a woman. I can’t distinguish all of
the words, but the words don’t matter; his voice crackles and stings. He talks to her the way fire talks to wood

She stands perfectly still, unflinching. She makes no eye contact, but I see
her head sink lower between her shoulders. I feel her heart constrict. I picture Queen Anne’s lace in November, a singed claw still defiant at the edge of the road. A frail fist clenched in the hard place between sun and frost. Silence. Her hand flutters to her throat. Her eyes are red-rimmed coals. This is the way wood answers fire.

When he turns and catches me staring, he shrugs, offering me a closed-mouth smile and a wink. He dramatically wraps both arms around her neck, pulls her close. Repelled, I’m still relieved by his abrupt playfulness. Then I realize that he’s holding her exactly the way lightning embraces a sapling, enfolding leafless limbs in its crooked gold arms. Hollowing a scorched place at its core.

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Christine Boyka Kluge's first book of poetry, Teaching Bones to Fly, will be published by Bitter Oleander Press in 2003. She has received seven Pushcart Prize nominations, and was given the 1999 Frances Locke Poetry Award by The Bitter Oleander, where she was the featured author in Fall 2001. She is also a visual artist.