My car idles. I watch the empty country
road, dead fields. I’m not ready
to park, and drive further, where the land is still

green and wet, where I watched
Tom & Jerry until Mom said something
about fresh air, exercise, too much violence

for a young boy. I kicked rocks and crossed
this creek. The thorns and pine trees
snatched at my skin, restrained me, hoping
to spare me from the truth.

I smell smoke on the leaves. It seeps
from dried clay, clings to rotten
trees: scent of Boy Scout campouts,
fireworks on the Fourth, scorched popcorn.

Smoke is a Siren to little boys. It lured
me, promised adventure: something to
watch. Beyond the green days, I find

the spot. Nothing left: emptiness, brown
earth, cursed land.

I stood here. The old man was on fire,
each step weighed and pulled him closer
to me. His shack collapsed behind

him and spat sparks that landed
at my bare feet. He groped
for me, his eyes hidden

in flames. I thought he would kill
me, but he needed help. Twelve years
of cartoons and toys left me

clueless, powerless, impotent.

I watched as he reached for me, as he hit
the ground. His face smoldered in the dirt.

I could only watch, too afraid
to breathe. His skin popped.

The withering clouds burst and pour
a comforting shower on my gray
hair. I make my way back to a life
I still feel powerless to affect.