The Fire of Twenty-Thirteen

It only takes a moment, and then
her body burns, the skin lifting away

in the shape of leaves—an oak, a willow branch, a maple—
as if she’s known this language for years.

She is screaming, she is speaking
in tongues, she is a woman

lost in dreams. Around here, it is only heat
and burn—and then there is the numbness, too.

A chill. A spider finding its way
through the nerves, the rope.

In case of a fire, the elevator is closed.

The spider takes the stairs, the spine,
like a ladder, looking for a way out:

a vibration, a scream,

the mouth is open.


When it comes, the meaning of water
is transformed.

It is not soothing and cool—it burns.
It suffocates.

The blue is a form of darkness
inside the house.


Then the house is no longer a house.


It is as if she has become a part of it—
the pictures, the clothing, melting—

the water seeming to strip away
what skin she believes is left. More blue.

More numbness.


When it comes, the color of the sun and the sky
are yellow, like a crayon, and then she is seeing

the house from the outside: the burn,
the tiles, the shingles, folding,

the main doorway like a mouth,
left open in a scream, bending, twisting,

into what only can be a more painful cry.

The sound that comes to mind reminds her
of wolves, echoing in a canyon,

absent of trees
that were sent away by the heat.


About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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