I awake to you. A burning building.
The alarm is my own. Internal alarm, clock alarm,
then coming through your very walls. The alarm
is of you. I call first with my mouth. Then with my phone.
No one. Then maybe someone. Then yes, a fire fighter, or two, is coming.
Outside, the children gather and gawk. Cover their ears from the blare.
They are clothed in their footed pajamas. We are all awake now. Even you,
the burning building.
I’m leaving, I say. I look them each in the eyes, the mouths, the chests.
I look at their footed feet.
I’m leaving you burning. The children can walk. The children can follow.
The building burns now behind me. You burn,
behind me. The alarm
Screams. No. No.
There is a field between us.
Now you are calling.
And now beseeching.
Behind me the children are a trail of children. Some following. Some clinging.
And now you, my home, my building, burn and burn.
There is a mountain between us.
And now you are ringing.
And now you are singing.
I look back. Back to you, burning building.
You are a glowing dancer, you are a façade on sparkling display.
Now a child. Or two. Or three. Pilgrim children. Between me
Copyright © 2020 by Tiphanie Yanique. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Though this poem is called ‘Home’ it is actually about the devastation of home; though metaphorized as a house or ‘building,’ the home in this case is the emotional space made with another person regardless of the dwelling. I want the poem to start out feeling concrete (is there a real fire?) then veer into a feeling of the haphazard (oh, the fire is metaphorical but who are the victims?). Though I believe metaphor is essential to literature and emotional life, in this poem I use metaphor to highlight the descent of direct communication in the home. It seems to me that we most often go to metaphor in our lives when things that feel impossible occur despite—such as a failure of a relationship that was believed to be a lifelong one.”
— Tiphanie Yanique