Burn Vision

The enchantment of a flaming head
before it’s been doused,
or the daubing that comes after
with ointment and a bloody rag.
There’s the lingering smell
of human smoke and alcohol,
but for some devilish moments
fire swept through the fields
and made everyone giddy
with big eyes and astonishment
not so different than first light
after the bomb’s been loosed,
or the imagining of that flash
during a red scare school drill
in children’s heads as they shield
their eyes and grip their desk’s leg.
The way their hairs calibrate
at the thought, eyes cinched tightly,
as a cold, electric tingle
drenches them, singeing
the safety they thought they had,
turning them to ash in an instant
just as they envision spacemen
might zap them with rayguns
or telepathy. In the temporary
bomb shelter, beneath that inch
of wood, they huddle with hope
or invincibility or a first thought
of afterlife, like the children
and mothers and men of Pompeii
before their molten tombs,
with a brief flash of red,
suddenly yet slowly sealed.


Wesley Rothmans poems and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, Harpur Palate, Thrush, Paper Darts, Phantom Limb, Similar:Peaks::, Rattle, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. He has worked with Copper Canyon Press, Ploughshares, Narrative, and Salamander, and teaches writing and cultural literatures at Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts Boston.