The Burning


Look at that thing. It’s a tree pod of some kind. I should know what it is, but I don’t. I should know the name of the tree it fell from, but I don’t. This being the 21st century, I tried to look it up and find out exactly what it is – this long, fat, dark-red beanlike pod – but I couldn’t. All I found were other long beanlike tree pods, but they all came from trees down south, and I don’t live in the south.

For years I’ve picked these pods up and brought them home. Sat them on my desk and stared at them. A pod like this doesn’t look like something that belongs here, in April, in 2009. It looks as if it grew in a prehistoric forest, and as if the beans contained within might hatch into tiny dinosaurs and start running all over my floors. And then grow bigger, and bigger. And lose their cuteness, and raise their dinosaur arms at me, and open their mouths to show their fangs.

Prehistoric. Before history. Like the alligator my sweetheart saw making his lazy switching way up the Apalachicola River, just under the surface of that dark water. Like the rib cages of the wild boars littering the banks of that river.

But these things do not exist pre-history. They are here. They are now. This tree pod fell from a tree three houses down my very own block.

Prehistoric. Like the nightmare images that wake you from drugged sleep at 3:47 a.m. Like the suck of an infant’s tongue. Like the burn of hunger in the pit of your stomach when all you can think about is food, food, where is food. Like the wild grief of loss. Like the wild desire to live, and keep living, no matter the suffering of this world.

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