In the photo of the kitchen fire,
We are dressed for Christmas:
Me in a flammable hand-me-down jacket,
Her in her costume jewelry
And her Edward Scissorhands t-shirt.
The scene is blurred and blue with smoke, since,
In the photo of the kitchen fire, the fire itself
Is still in progress, burning on in the background,
Small but insistent.
The explosion has not happened yet,
in the photo of the kitchen fire—
Soon the door of the toaster oven will blow out
Like a bistro window in an action movie.
The food on the counter behind us
Will glitter with bites of glass.
We are not moving
In the photo of the kitchen fire, or
At least we are not leaving.
No, I am wringing my hands
And my eyes are all whites and alarm,
And my mother’s mouth is twisted,
Like she’s trying not to laugh, or cry,
Or both—with her, it’s often both—
And she is turning me toward her, away
From the blaze in the background.
There is no fire extinguisher
In the photo of the kitchen fire;
Perhaps my boyfriend
Had gone to get it. Still my mother and I
Are not leaving. My sister
Has reached for her camera.
Kate Horowitz is a science writer, poet, and essayist in Washington, D.C. Her work has been widely published, most recently in Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems about Inanimate Objects. You can find her online at www.thingswrittendown.com or on Twitter @delight_monger.
Image by Abby Horowitz, courtesy the author. Author photo: Anna Carson Dewitt.