SALT HILL 20, Winter 2008



Charles Harper Webb


Her Last Conflagration


The moon’s orange wind-tunnel ignites a smoldering
sky.  Power poles loom like crosses many Jesuses
jumped down from, burning.  My car flames in the murk:

red Firebird I’ve dumped my every cent into, then
wonder why the tires are flat.  “Copper’s heavy, man,”
my best friend gasps before flames pop him like the luna

moth that hit Dad’s bug-zapper when I was 9, attempting
my first kiss.  The heart-stopper who started this
has crackling orange hair.  Heat waves shimmer off

her skin.  I look up from the raw armadillo I’m gnawing
for Survival Class, and watch her antelope across
a grove of live (for now) oak tress.  Their acorns gleam

like carameled amethysts in steam.  She makes me feel
tres troglodytic.  “Priapism has its price,” she’ll say,
and pocket all my change.  I’ve soaked in rainbow-

colored oils, and chewed my skin to soften it for her.
I’ve worn white wigs and wooden teeth since she said,
“General George can Yankee Doodle Do me any time.”

She claims I make her feel like Mary in The Pieta,
cradling a wiener-dog in sunglasses and tie. “Just
like that, Pathos turns to Bathos, Lust to Bust,” she cries,

a crazed look in her eyes—no, a napalm launcher
in her hand.  She’s always had it, but love blinded me.
Poof!—the veranda flares.  And the Veronica (her name).

I just have time to clean the catbox, kiss her crispy
corpse and—fire carousing in the tree—say,
“Goodnight,” with black lips, and some irony.