Armpit arsonist

The lighter was a second degree burn
even inside his pocket, he felt it bruising his thigh.
He turned the music up, rolled his window down.
But he wanted a smoke.

Halfway through the cigarette
he looked at her. She was laughing,
pressing the gas pedal harder.

He didn’t think a dollar-store lighter
could make that much spark,
turn hair soap-scented to month-old trash.

He joked about the tufts tucked between her arms.
Why didn’t she just shave?
The short fibers her one rebellious trait.

The smell filled the car. She let go of the wheel
to swat the flames spreading from her underarm.
He didn’t think a dollar-store lighter
would make them turn over and over,
like he danced when he was drunk.

How could a dollar-store lighter
drive a 4,000 pound car into a ditch
on the side of I-84,
propel his friends in the back out of windows,
like rockets leaving the earth.
He didn’t think a dollar-store lighter
had that much fuel. His thumb that much strike.

Another poem for Rattle Magazine’s Poets Respond series. On Sunday, a car full of teenagers crashed in Boise, Idaho when a passenger lit the driver’s armpit hair on fire. The teens all suffered injuries, but none life-threatening. This was news too weird not to reflect on. I entered the scene from the passenger’s mind. Here’s the article.


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