Red orange flame licks
crackles, pops, roars.
What a sound!
Resin-bitter smoke prickles sweet tears.

At last, at last
the fire rages Here: in Palm Beach
Palm Springs, Shaker Heights, Pacific
Heights, Beacon Hill, Grosse Pointe.

The roofs burst, slam, crash
down on miles of mahogany, marble, damask and silk.
Once-neat lawns steam and sizzle:
brown stubble fairy-dusted with ash and burn-rubble.

Cool aqua pools bubble and boil, plastic
furniture puddles in faithful attendance.
The occupants have fled,
run away with eyes open,
looking spooked over sooty shoulders
for those they’ve done wrong.

The deep city is jubilant and pristine,
laundry the color of fire hangs in starchy clean rows,
strung between fresh-scrubbed tenements.
Zinnias stand tall and proud, rooted in small patches of true earth.
Children play jacks and jump rope on the sidewalks,
like there is nothing to fear.

Today their mothers and their fathers
went north, went up, went out
to where the rich folk live,
to return the flames too often
kindled and fanned on their own doorsteps.

Some think
Fire will cleanse.
Some hope
It will avenge.
Some pray
It will awaken.
All know it will change.

Faith is,
Can’t be much worse that it was—
living unwelcome or unseen,
Where peace is proscribed
and justice denied.
Power burns bright: a beacon,
a torch, a blaze.

Elizabeth West has a lifelong interest in revolution, and in exploring the interstices where love, truth, imagination and courage meet, sometimes igniting wild transformation. Write her at elizabethwest@sonic.net Read other articles by Elizabeth, or visit Elizabeth's website.