I’m walking down the street with my trouser hems burning.
I used to try to shake them out, and obviously,
the flames only rose.
I stopped trying to stop, drop and roll;
stopped trying to jump in puddles
and I’ve learned long since to ignore the stares
when getting on buses.
Sometimes it gets on my fingers, my lips,
and I catch things on fire that I touch. It’s tough,
but I’ve learned to live with it,
with the smell of burning that sends people running
every time I enter a room.

I don’t remember how it all started.
Maybe, like Centralia, it started with a vein of carbon
inside my brain that caught fire, that no one could quench.
Everyone went about their business, unaware that under
the oddly warm asphalt, roots were frying,
and the earth’s core was gasping through its cracks.
Finally a boy nearly died, swallowed into a sinkhole
and the town was condemned.
Entire cities inside me are evacuated now—
looking habitable to passers-by,
though really
just membranes
over molten stone.

I’ve warned you:
don’t get too close to me.
The flames lick up my sides sometimes,
throwing off sparks.
I cling to cold metal,
walk alone when it rains.
I’m afraid of starting forest fires
because the heat’s just too much.
I don’t mean to be this way—I don’t mean
to be the person no one can touch.

© Psyche Marks 2019

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