All Wildfires Start Somewhere

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Contributor: Juliet Duchesne

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It started off slow, smoldered like the cherry tip
of my last cigarette. We flew across the cities like gods, soaring
past ninety-five miles on the interstate. We watched street
lights streak by: painted bolts as beautiful as Zeus’ glory,
imprinting jagged beams across our eyes. The endorphins crept
through my frontal lobe, spread through my brainstem,
my bloodstream, like embers resting in my hands. I can’t remember
where we were driving to, maybe to the end of the world.
All I knew was that my body craved a small glimpse of heaven
that I could only reach with the vial, the pill, or the spiraling smoke
that floated beyond clenched knuckles on the steering wheel. My heart
hammered underneath clammy skin; high on the fire that started
deep in my lungs, burned through realities I wished I could leave
behind. My cranium flooded with dopamine that doused receptors in
a crippling euphoria. I felt like I could only see the full picture
through dilated pupils. Like the moon, my eyes waxed full as time
went on, engulfed me with visions I never knew possible, twisted
colors tangled in a feverish haste through black sun irises, and
flames that made my mouth water. But it all ignited so quickly;
it seemed everything turned to ash before I could exhale.
I tilted my head back and laughed as the car carried us
to the edge of sunshine, ready for us to embrace
the horizon’s lips with a blistered kiss.

My mother rolls her eyes when I tell her I love her;
she knows it’s the money in her pocket that I’m after,
that my robotic-coal smile holds no weight.

She knows that if I just listened to her when I had the chance
I wouldn't have rotten away from the inside out.
And it makes me sick to my stomach because she’s right.

I told her there was nothing to worry about,
but she notices dark plum bruises growing on my tender nerves,
and I can’t feel warm tears leaking from my sunken sockets.

I flinch when she rests her palm on my shoulder,
and pray that she doesn’t notice, but I know she knows.
She wouldn’t walk back into a burning building.

She asks why I have been gone so often,
why I can’t even manage to peek into her auburn irises.
Her gaze feels as if she’s trying

to soothe my wounds with lemon juice and vinegar—
like searing barbed wire pressing further
into the already weak chambers of my heart.

Her eyes always attempt to incinerate the toxins that cling
so desperately onto the woven fibers of my body.
So I flinch when she looks at me,

the same way as when I feel her rough wool sleeves
brush against where my bicep meets my forearm, like silver
phantom needles piercing through my already torn skin.

I asked him if
he could remember a time
before we began to paint
our lungs black;
when our skin was still soft,
when I could wash my face
back to life—He said,
why does it matter?

I told him I’ve become
more ash than person.
That I burn my fingertips,
hoping I can wake up
from this, but I keep
sinking further into the
coals—He said,
just have another hit
and you’ll feel better.

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Juliet Duchense is a first year college student studying Secondary Education in hopes to be an English teacher one day. She loves writing, reading, and absorbing as many stories as she possibly can. She is just trying her best.


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