Wood Burner

Often I would stand there
Watching the spit
Sizzling like a drop of acid
Waiting patiently until it evaporated.
Then slowly, methodically, do it again.
But not while Dad was around.
I’d been warned before.
I didn’t believe
Spit would crack the metal, but
I also didn’t want another lecture.
I’d already left one mark.
A big tarry patch that never
Quite went away.

Leaning against the burner had
Been a bad idea.
Especially with a nylon jacket.
Peeled that synthetic backing right off.
Feathers spilled out all over,
And I didn’t even know what
Down looked like until I smelled it burning.
But it wasn’t the smoke or the heat,
It was the black liquid tar
Running down the side of the stove
That scared me most.
Thought I was going to end up
Like a photo I once saw.
A kid from Hiroshima with his
T-shirt welded to his chest.

Sometimes life is like that.
There’s something out there
To scare all of us.
Even to the point of obsession
Where you can’t always stay away
Even though you know you should.