I KNOW ALL ABOUT COMBUSTION by Allie Marini

On the night of your funeral, I stand in front of a raging bonfire licking its way up to the blacked-out stars hidden in the sky above & let the snowstorm the radio says is on its way whip oily lashes of my hair across my cheeks. Drag them like a dirty razor kisses the skin to let something bleed out—you know all about the bleeding. How quietly it leaches into pine straw. How pine straw crackles when you throw it into a bonfire burning in rusted-out washing machine drum in the backwoods of Alachua county. You know all about how something damp & damaged sizzles once it surrenders to ignition.

I know all about combustion, the bonfire whispers. I want to burn, I answer, with my lips twisted into a line so thin it becomes a razor. Taste the smoke & blood of you on my tongue. Decide I’ll tell every single one of your secrets tonight & feed you to the fire. They say a snowstorm is coming in Florida & these things are not supposed to happen. I have buried you, am burying you, will bury you every day for the rest of my life. I am buried alive with you & in this moment I don’t yet know that I’m as dead as you are. I will never be the person I was again & neither will you. The difference is that I will haunt the corners of my own life, sleepwalk through everything, seek out danger & violence & misery because they’re the only things that remind me of you. I will seek out poison & drink it down like I’m dying of thirst & really, who’s to say I’m not?

I know the difference between a casket & a coffin—mainly it’s the shape—so in this distinction, you become a coffin & I am the casket. Because at a funeral service what the mourners see is a casket—what the world sees is me—but you’re the coffin. This unbearable grief is the sepulcher & here, we are ghosts, you & I. This night is an exercise in the improbability of weather, the perils of unmanageable fire & unpredictable cold winds skittering soundless & razor sharp across a sky where the stars are blotted out. How with the proper tools a coffin can become a casketbut never in reversewithout adding two sides & wrecking the beauty of geometry, telemetry, function.

I write a secret with a hollow shaft onto the calamus of a starling feather, add every detail I can remember onto its barbs until the vane sparkles against the glow of the fire. I hold it to the flame & watch as the afterfeather goes up in smoke. Honor the connection that signifies Creator. Destroyer of Worlds, you are free to explore a starless night. Well of starling, feathered breath. The feather becomes a coffin, an inferno, a wisp of hot ash, then nothing at all. I whisper your next secret into the bracts & seed scales of a pinecone. Wonder if the whispering is generative, whether anything will take root & grow. What is the purpose of a pinecone? In this moment I’m as dead as you are. Time just hasn’t caught up to me yet. Dream about a pinecone & instead wake up a terebinth tree—good for nothing except a fool’s errand fueled by misguided strength. I feel my teeth sharpen when I pitch it into the burning drum. I taste our death on my blood-whetted tongue.

I know the difference between a casket & a coffin. You are six-sided & ornate. I am rectangular & serviceable. This unbearable grief is our mausoleum & I have become a ghost to chase you deeper into the starless night. Into a forest of trees that wave as though they’re burning in the rusted-out drum of a washing machine. The telemetry of radio waves. Static & wind turn the weather report into a tinny ghost, calling out over the tops of scrub pines, A snowstorm is coming in Florida, these things should not happen. These things should not happen. Drag lashes of dirty hair like rusty razors down my cheeks & let the bonfire warm away the chill of cadaver. Let it smolder like a secret & unfurl into a thread of ash, a column of smoke. Let the residue of the burning blot out every star in the sky & leach into moonlight obscured. Consider the way scrub pine needles soak up the aftermath of a bloodletting. Have a steady hand before the cut.

Another secret, this time written on the edge of a razor blade & meant to bury you so deep even the cicadas can’t dig you back out.  I am not a thing made for feathers. You were not a thing meant for wings. Warp like the rusted-out drum of an old washing machine bending under the weight of a funeral fire burning in a haunted canopy. Send a column of smoke straight up into the starless sky & invert it, call it hell & learn to love perdition.  I know all about combustion, the bending drum groans against each thrush of the fire.

Every snowflake, like a coffin, is a six-sided thing. Each point indebted to the way in which it crystallizes, so bend the light around me, hide me in a hexagon until I disappear. In the skies high above, a solitary snowflake is forming. These things should not happen. I have found a dram of poison here & have drunk it down. The funeral tastes of campfire & cadaver. Bract by barb, I construct you like a secret & lay us to rest in this coffin. On the night of our funeral, I stand in front of a raging bonfire stoked on secrets, feathers, pinecones. I dream of a scrub pine & awaken as a terebinth tree. Steady my hand before the cut, lick myself into a ghost.

ART BY BOB SCHOFIELD @anothertower

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