A Fire: Galveston, 1965
   by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue is an essayist, short story writer, and poet living in Fort Worth, Texas. He has had poems published in The Texas Observer, California Quarterly, Blue Lake Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, Wilderness House Literary Review, Barbaric Yawp, and two anthologies of Texas poetry.

On my grandma’s stoop, we watch
a fireman carry a black man fireman-style.
The burned man’s skin hangs from his arms
like the fringe on the leather jackets
I lust for this summer of ’65.

Then my grandmother stands up,
shakes her head,
“No sympathy,” she spits out.

“That idget smoked and fell asleep.
He deserves to die.
He put everybody in danger
and didn’t give a good god damn.”

I notice how when she shakes her head,
the loose skin under her chin flaps like a lizard’s.
Then she clears her throat and lets fly a wad of phlegm.

With open-mouthed awe, I watch its wobbly trajectory
as it arcs over my head, somersaulting through the air
until it plops in the sand, yards away.

As the ambulance’s siren gets out of ear shot,
the burned man’s wife returns.
And somehow recognizes
the waterlogged blackened mattress as theirs.

Bending over it, she screams, then breaks for the door.
Grim-faced men in white dress shirts hold her back.
She claws at them,
screaming in a high-pitched voice
something incomprehensible
that sounds like jagged glass.

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