A Man's House Catches Fire

Tom Sastry (Bristol, UK)

Helen Ivory: A matter-of fact telling of a man living inside a burning house: ‘It’s been a month, now / with the fire still raging / and me not dead / and no help coming’, shows to me, just how much you can put up with a situation, which when you outside of it, might look intolerable. At the end of the poem, he says ‘nothing is burning’ as he steps back into the house ‘which is still on fire.’

 

A man’s house catches fire

 

I was suddenly uncomfortably hot

but I have always had these surges

 

and I thought the smell of smoke

was just me going off my head

 

which I have learnt to expect.

So I shut the curtains

 

undressed, turned the heating off

and lay in the last of my stillness

 

watching the shadow of a flame

playing on the far wall

 

until the shadow reddened

and I could see no way out.

 

It’s been a month, now

with the fire still raging

 

and me not dead

and no help coming

 

so today, I stepped outside

smelling more than ever of myself.

 

My oldest friend was passing.

She said Is it that time?

 

Are the houses of men burning too?

I said You’re mistaken.

 

Nothing is burning.

and I walked back into my house

 

which is still on fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poem © Tom Sastry