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POETRY / The Conflagration / Ann Eleven

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Not everyone in the beautiful house 
was on fire

but those of us on fire were discouraged
from talking about it

after long enough of being on fire 
you can talk of nothing else 

at this juncture the dinner parties 
became very awkward

according to everyone who was
not on fire

but for the rest of us things were more
“devastating” or “fatal” 

blistering through the soup course
sloughing ash over coffee

sometimes after dinner 
in the drawing room 

another guest, not on fire, would sidle up
and hiss a whisper 

about our resilience but never pour us
a glass of water

when the revolution came 
we were dreaming of rain 

it had not rained in one hundred 
and thirty two years 

since the beautiful house was built
some of us born on fire had never seen rain

we set fire to the beautiful house
like we never had lived there

[if one can be said to have lived
in a place 

where a vital condition of self
can never be mentioned]

it was just a matter of standing 
too close to the curtains

or leaning against dry timbers 
which was easy 

as those not on fire got nervous 
if we were too close 

to their conversations. the room 
went up in flames 

they had to evacuate 
we remained,  

the pillar of flame ascended 
almost to heaven

as storm clouds gathered. it was rain 
that put out the blaze

it was no one who sat with us 
at dinner 

no one in the beautiful house
with their sinks and wells and cisterns 

their ewers and basins and water piped in 
from under the mountains 

now it's no one’s beautiful house 
so perhaps that answers the question 

of whose: no one’s. no longer a house.
and the fields are greening.


Ann Eleven is a queer non-binary writer and librarian. She lives in Chicago and tweets @junkyardattic.