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The House Is On Fire

This is hard, eating.
It might be better to starve,
and I am left wanting the heroin
that so pickled Burroughs.
It could be muscles and bones,
or it could be squamous cell carcinoma
that gets the goods.
To starve around it,
to tighten up and dry out,
might scare it out like a mouse from a house on fire.

There is a fire in the belly when I drink
like the one that was there when I was twenty-one
and believed in unrequited love.
So I do it now
to forget that mouse in the dark
who makes a nest of my tissues,
gnawing out a space for itself
in which to calculate its multiplication.
It must have sneaked in when I was out.

There was a boy in seventh grade
who gave me a school photo,
which I hid inside the covering of my earmuff.
It was there against my head every day at recess,
and it burned like shame or a loathsome burden
until I took it out and flushed it down the toilet.
The annual winter confession of this act
has never relieved the embarrassment.
Not knowing better
or knowing that you don't know better
will burn down your last straw.

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