The Succumbing

For Firemen Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia,
lost in the Deutsche Bank Building, NYC, August 18, 2007


Sizzle, gallop, pushing spew of spark and angle,
fire beyond its normal rage and human border,
taunting skin. And Joseph’s cage is now collapsing,
barely, very barely, managing to hold his
thawing heart’s despairing claw, its shrinking language.
Landscape still beneath him, arms still blindly flailing,
Bobby must remember that to squelch the blazing
means to resurrect deceit, to conjure just the
sound of water on the tongue. The goddamned fools who
seek to save a wall must swallow razors, forkfuls
of a dimming light, must pray to conjure current.
Shuttered throats go craving for a gasp, a way to
scare the day aloose, to flood those shrinking roads with
fuel, whiskey—anything that flows. We’re running 
out of air. The burning riddle-spits, confounding
wind, and whittles towards the bursting bones of both our
boys. Days after, soft and sated smoke will drift like
bland religions up, till someone late for work—some 
sweating stressed New Yorker who barely snags the 6—
slams himself, panting, sideways in a seat. It’s hot 
as holy hell he spits, We’re going to die in here.

Copyright © 2015 by Patricia Smith. This poem originally appeared in Arroyo Literary Review #7, Spring 2015. Used with the permission of the author.