Essay discussing “Pyro”


“Pyro” previously appeared in Poetry June, 2006 Contributors


By Dana Levin

You're gonna strike the match—

You're gonna strike it—

Flame the bank up into pods
           of fire, be

           a masterhand—


And someone said, Gasoline.

Someone said, We have to change the images
           inside their heads, said


And motor oil, he bought at a mini-mart.


And the cat said Don't
even though it was dead
and the squirrel said Don't
and the little dog missing an eye and a leg
           even though they were dead, said

Don't Don't

but you did it anyway.

And someone said, That boy is sick—
And someone said, It was kind of pretty

           when you didn't know what it was from the road.


Hours now, by the trashed banks, counting
           the colored

Brown for beer. Green
           for the fizzy water, clear
for anything and
           tail lights smashed, cars mucked like
big cats
           trapped in tar, who
ate the flesh right off their legs, if they were
they could hurry home, they could float

           killed cat dead at the end of your stick, who could
do that,
shot in the head—

           Like in the shows where the cop
cleans up his town,
           then the ambulance comes for the drowned.


You felt bad, so you did it.

You thought it was pretty, so you
           did it again.

You felt charged and buoyant
           as you picked your way home

           to the blue-lit fatherless den—

So you did it again.

The bb'ed mutt, leg smashed, home-bum toasting you
           with his beer as you
dragged it
           to the sludgy bank, the match, the gas, the
pile of tires someone had dumped, were you
           dumped? you had asked
after another one left, and she had

slapped you,
and slapped—

You were an ambulance, you could see she had drowned—

Like in the shows where the warrior
           collects his dead and
brings them to the shore,
to burn them
in their body-boats, release
           the spiritual



And the parents said,
Didn't he have a house-key around his neck,
didn't he have a pager, an electrical tether
to a list of chores and a stocked refrigerator—

And the teachers said Yes, but what
           were the images inside his head, they
see it and they make it be—

And you put it in a tire, your
           viking boat,
you set it on fire and it kept afloat
           as it sailed down the river—
to the heaven of not being