295. Midnight, April 15

The wind had spent itself,
An ebbing moan that
Circled round them, jostling
Walls. The yellow candles
Singed the dark.

Louise’s eyes were
Cloudy: heavy tallow fragrance,
Tang of kerosene.
She needed sleep. Just
Sleep. She sat, down on
The floor, hands joined
Between her dirty knees,
Her head hung back.
Across the room, Tom
Felt her failure, potent
As a drug, now
Running in her veins.
The storm howled, faint.

“Move them fires!”

No one spoke.

Fires!” High voice,
Weak, demanding, strained,
Jagged breath
Scraped through each word.
Plaintive child’s voice,
But not James’.
It was Riah’s.

“Move them
Fires!” Fingers
Twitching, trembling
Badly, Riah seemed
To point the candles out.
“Move them–” scalding,
Searing panic–

And Louise, her red coarse
Hands at Riah’s temples,
As if to extract
The thought:

“Tell me
About the fire.”

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