Because You Are No Longer Here to Answer
So, whenever setting fire to one’s self is mentioned
as a form of self-harm
and a cool-toned, collective voice declares, “I’ve heard of that,
but I’ve never known anyone who’s actually done that,”
I will be the anomaly who declares, “I knew somebody
who did that,”
and somebody will inevitably blurt out, “How exactly does that work?”
and I will feign muteness for you,
I will not give them the satisfaction of knowing
how you took your harm,
and they will press,
paint an image of a teenage you,
the steady flame of a
dancing with the skin of your wrist,
because it always has to be the wrist, doesn’t it,
and they will not know that I too
am painting a similar image,
one less cruel,
one more you.
You let me in
in bits and pieces,
never revealed to me if you were
a Bic guy or a Zippo guy,
if the initial sensation felt the best
or if the burns, first- and second-degree,
all the bubbled-up scars,
You gave me no choice but to assume
your mother was a smoker.
A toddler you getting into her pocketbook,
her red plastic cigarette lighter
burning an invisible hole
in your tiny, flexing palm,
an impulse planted,
stowed away for later.
with the rest of them,
if this image is you.
Christine Naprava is a writer from South Jersey. Her work has appeared in Soundings East and Studio One.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.