The spark struck in secret, beneath the stairs in the dust 
in the cellar, smoulders the way a face does–and the life 
inside it–after a slap. Like a humiliation. A wet bed.

Where the rabbit in her hutch sleeps winter out, in the hay 
with her brood. And bicycles stand broken-antlered in the dark. 
In the dust in the cellar where the cat wounded with poison

slides into the shadows to extinguish herself. It's dark 
outside, inside the dark becomes particles a little like rain 
stilled. Behind the chicken-wired glass, the garden shakes

a few dead leaves down. Most of the work of winter 
is done, the pond lidded, the ruts of the bicycles' wheels cast 
in iron. The fire begins by itself in the circles of dust,

the animal hair, the cells of skin, earth from the garden. 
Tinder for the fire insisting itself upstairs. The fire has been 
impatient to begin all along. The house is its accomplice.

Nothing will grow here, nothing will flourish. Roots 
of the black walnut tree hold tight the foundations. Like a liquid, 
the way heat fills cracks, the way it pools. Flames

brush the root hairs, make them stand on end. Like a song's 
ending, not quite to wake us is the fire's intention. To stroke us 
with its smoke, our sleeping faces. To take us dreaming.