It’s not the fire, it’s the smoke
Written by Deanna Rodger
House fires begin privately
a faulty fairy light
A gas cooker left on blue
A candle knocked sideways
A cigarette’s missing ember
The windows in my house are single glazed.
1 in 3 won’t open. The ones that do open with a hatch window at the top Too high and too small to crawl through
The glass seems easy enough to smash.
The question is, would I jump?
With a fire on my back, or would I wait to be found?
People have so many presumptions about what they would do in situations of extreme danger
they say, ‘I would have made a rope ladder of bed sheets’. ‘I would have fought back, poured the water from my glass on my bedside cabinet all over it.’ ‘I would go back in time.’ ‘I would escape, wrap a damp cloth around my head, crawl on my manicured hands and shaven knees.’
I’d blend into the white wall, keeping my eyes open as my room burnt.
Writhing on the floor in another body
Another body’s breath like solar flares.
Another body blocking exits
Another body hurled from window to bedside cabinet, another body burst open. waiting.
Another body held blue by fury. [Waiting].
I have called on angels, burnt sage in every corner
I have woken up to giant spiders under the sheets and flushed them down
toilets only for them to crawl back up and under the seat.
I have salted the cracks where the slugs slimed in and drank wine with the
I have been ash-ed on and spat on, my red lipstick ripped from my lips
I have left houses and parties and gigs, cars and film premieres, dresses
I have abandoned every room in me
Today, the sun hit the glass with it’s heavy hand
Sat with my back to it
Trying not to be forced out of the position I had chosen to rest my body
I took off my jumper. There. Are you happy now?
All it took was 9 orange roses and a subtitled film
We held hands to my front door and I swear it meant love
I can hear myself
Myself saying yes ok
Myself saying delete it now, yeah?
You deleted it, yeah.
Myself trapped in a phone
Myself deleting myself at night
Myself calling out from a laptop turned on in the midst of me leaving
Myself rummaging hard-drives, drawers, shoeboxes, lost
Myself held safe in a usb
Sent as a message in a disagreement
On a speaker, cancelling plans to see friends
On our third date, a fall out smashed the mirror
My reflection scattered across the white hallway
Should I have known then as I picked up the pieces
The smallest shards lodging themselves into my knees and palms
Fear for staying silent, fear for speaking up
Fear of staying
Fear of walking away
Fear of never being able to move past the past
The past becoming the present being the future
How the future was on fire, too dangerous to dream about
I spoke about needing water, and flooded us right there in that basement
How I drowned
And drowned and drowned trying to escape the fire
All the while suffocating on smoke.
Please let me go
Please leave me be
Please let me leave
Please don’t leave me
Once walking along Brixton Water Lane
I thought I saw them
And I splashed to the floor
To my hands and knees frozen
My friend lifted me up
You’re ok, you’re safe. it’s not real.
But what if you have melted
What if you have been poured into a mould you do not recognise what if you
don’t believe yourself
17 days ago
I walked along the train tracks that link Nice to St Tropez
A train hurtled towards me
And when we met I held out my hand
And the train pushed and kept pushing
And I could feel gravel beneath my bare feet
And I could hear the screech
And my heart slowed and slowed and slowed and
I refused to move and with this I split the train in two
It fell on either side of the track and I walked through it
All the passengers were dead and decaying
And stank of smoke and brandy
And there were rats in trench coats
pummelling blackberries that burst all over them
As a wound heals it clots
And cross stitches itself
It needs a certain level of humidity.
It needs to be sealed.
After it has thickened itself
The skin will thin
It will never be as strong as it once was
But it will have found its way back to itself
Sometimes I stand with my back to the front door
Waiting outside of it all
The clear sky flashing blue lights
Me smoky as incense
Inside soot avoids the spot on the white wall I took hold too
A street ruptures in silent applause
Hands refusing to hit one another
Admiration for making it.
And as I head back in I hear, in my head
A voice pushing at the door
Let me in, let me in.
It’s not the fire, it’s the smoke