Generation Kindling by Kyle Dargan
Youth full of fire ain’t got nowhere to go
Near woods’ edge, the boy kneels
to pry open caps and flick matches
down oil lines of foreclosed homes.
Wind drag snuffs the flames before
each charred match head plunks
against the sludge-slick
bends in the pipes. The boy fails
the tests at school, where some
say he needs an outlet, a father,
therapy. The boy: the incarnate
will of the forest—those jack pines
that desire a blaze vehement
and swift before their serotinous
cones open, letting seeds
reach the rich bed of scorched needles.
The pines would prefer a wildland
fire, something felicitous as lightning
lighting underbrush into pyre—
drafts drenched in flame. But we are
too quick—with our helicopters,
retardant, trench lines, and
pre-torching. Our aim to corral.
Thus the forest grew the boy—
a fruit of our own flesh rather than
resined scales. But we were so busy
making the boy promises (if you are
a pious boy, a quiet boy, a still boy),
no one noticed how his irises darkened
in the fall or how the spring
breeze made a music as it wrapped
around him. All the bourgeois
trappings we dangled for his obedience
will be beyond reach in the coming years.
We know that. The boy can sense
our default, and instead now seeks
the inferno coded within him.
He is not the only one the pines
have sown among us, and we’ll see
smoke before we realize the many.
Absorbed with saving our hides, our own
ephemeral futures, we imagine
ourselves stewards. Keeping
our lives green by preventing fires
when the forest wants to burn.