Prose | Fire

Prose by JR

The leaves were like dead fire; vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows dulled as they fell, dead against the grey stones of the field of names they covered.

Her hands clutched a bundle of flowers, red roses picked from the bush outside her childhood home. They were a shout of color in this dead, muted place. She imagined the thorns cutting through her palms, her blood dripping down the stems and into the damp dirt. She saw the blood seeping down, down, down, like a memory.

This was a secluded area, enclosed by evergreen trees, staunch and unchanging. The green pines melted into one other, the sap seeping from the coarse wrinkles of the bark like blood out of a wound. A naked tree sat in the middle, wide and twisted with branches like broken hands. It provided shade in the summer so that new flowers would not dry out so quickly, so the tears that fell might wet the stones for more than a moment. In the fall, the fire in its branches made her heart race. The whole area became lighter, brighter, darkly jovial. She imagined a voice coming out of the tree, the voice of God speaking to her in her brother’s voice, finally answering her, finally bringing him home.

“Here I am,” she’d whisper, and the Lord would deliver her people.

Then the winter came, and the fire was gone, trampled dead in the dirt across this field of names. There was no deliverance, for this was her people’s promised land.

She wished it smelled like death here, but the petrichor filled her with every breath. The air was cool, calm, clean. The light breeze carried the sweet aroma of the flowers she held. She wanted this place to smell like what it was. Not like this; not like home.

She kneeled in front of the stone that marked her baby brother’s place in this field. She fell into the memories without meaning to; she thought of his eyes, small in his big bean head, his nose which was her nose, his smile which was her smile.

She placed the roses next to the headstone. She had wanted them to be pink, but she had picked them too late. The red was violent against the headstone, like blood on asphalt. She clutched the dewy blades of grass and tried not to see it, tried not to see her brother’s blood, his limp body hitting the ground. She tried not to see him, standing, scared, hands up over his head. He was her brother one moment, then a chalk outline on the pavement, sentenced to a casket six feet under the ground.

There was an irony to the evergreens in this place, a poetry to the naked tree hanging over it all. It was her brother, brown, broken limbs reaching high into the sky, the life falling until it was dead, discarded, trampled in the dirt.

He was like dead fire, and she held onto his memory like a prayer. Deliver us, oh Lord, deliver us.

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