Burning Woman

Image courtesy of absolutely free photos.

The why of the curse doesn’t matter because
she was to learn so much earlier than Miser Midas
that only one exit would work. She lived alone,
burning — alone to breathe air un-ashed, alone
to spare all the others, for who could sit in a scorching
chair or sleep on a coal-hot bed? Her hair always
flamed, her skin was beyond red hot, and who did not
shiver at the bone glow of her hands? Spoons went limp and
flattened the moment she dropped them to the table,
and because food charred on her fingertips, she learned
to toss raw bites and catch them like a caged creature.
Water hissed away in her goblet, so she tilted her head
under cascades but stepped away fast from the boil and hiss.

This was no life. The before didn’t matter.
The fire was always raging in her body—cindering her thoughts
and crisping her heart. Every conventional self-end
would fail ….

Rope is a running stitch of flame.
Poison evaporates in the glass.
The overheated chamber fuses the bullet.
Walk into the sea always toward
the receding roll of steam ….

Height, she needs height, and
now — the rushing air spreads her red halo
outward, and it blows out — everything
whooshes away in the rush, and she thinks
at last:
I’m out.

[Susan Maxwell Campbell grew up in Dallas and is retired from teaching languages in public schools. Her principal activities are gardening, birdwatching, and singing. She has two degrees in French and a degree in creative writing from University of North Texas, where she received the University Writing Award for Graduate Poetry. Her poems have appeared in several publications. Her collection Anything You Ever Wanted to Know was selected the 2015 book winner of Poetry Society of Texas.]