my son calls out, imagines flame, light
shooting from his hands, Fire mountain.
His hands—My boat is swimming through fire—
always unscathed. My great-great-grandmother
burned her whole right side when a vat
of boiling chenokorka—black-rind, cherry
preserves—spilled over her skirted thigh, ate
right through the fabric. I imagine her hands
swimming through fire—sugar and pits—clearing
skin of char. Her daughters would grow
afraid of boiling, never bring red fruit
to the stove again. Fire, Fire, my son singes
the air with open palms and asks if I see it.
My great-grandfather must have burned too,
though none of us saw those flames either.
My boat, Fire, Fire, falling fire.
When our people’s bodies
rose too high—My mountain, Fire—the Germans
or Russians or Ukrainians—anyone
without ashes in their blood—discovered
burning always makes more room.
They named the dead
a waste of space inside the earth, my ancestors,
a certain waste above it. But burned, we became
fertilizer—compressed or blown away—lingering
in soil and air—eternal, unnoticed—
in my son’s hands—Fire, Fire.