To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire

This is a great poem for discussion, but you may not like how it progresses. I used it in class during election week when many of us were distraught and did not know how we would continue to dialogue with half of our country. The opening lines are beautiful. And, who hasn’t started off on a good note trying to sort something disturbing out only to dissemble into something less than our best selves?

To Whoever Set My Truck On Fire                                                             Steve Scafidi

But let us be friends awhile and understand our differences

are small and that they float like dust in sunny rooms

and let us settle into the good work of being strangers

simply who have something to say in the middle of the night

for you have said something that interests me—something of flames,

footsteps and the hard heavy charge of an engine gunning away

into the June cool of four in the morning here in West Virginia

where last night I woke to the sound of a door slamming,

five or six fading footsteps, and through the window saw

my impossible truck bright orange like a maverick sun and

ran—I did—panicked in my underwear bobbling the dumb

extinguisher too complex it seemed for putting out fires

and so grabbed a skillet and jumped about like one

needing to piss while the faucet like honey issued its slow

sweet water and you I noticed then were watching

from your idling car far enough away I could not make

your plate number but you could see me—half naked

figuring out the puzzle of a fire thirty seconds from

a dream never to be remembered while the local chaos

of a growing fire crackled through the books and boots

burning in my truck, you bastard, you watched as I sprayed

finally the flames with a gardenhose under the moon

and yes I cut what was surely a ridiculous figure there

and worsened it later that morning after the bored police

drove home lazily and I stalked the road in front of my house

with an ax in my hand and walked into the road after

every car to memorize the plates of who might have done this:

LB 7329, NT 7663, and you may have passed by—

I don’t know—you may have passed by as I committed

the innocent numbers of neighbors to memory and maybe

you were miles away and I, like the woodsman of fairy tales,

threatened all with my bright ax shining with the evil

joy of vengeance and mad hunger to bring harm—heavy

harm—to the coward who did this and if I find you,

my friend, I promise you I will lay the sharp blade deep

into your body until the humid grabbing hands of what must be

death have mercy and take you away from the constant

murderous swinging my mind makes my words make

swinging down on your body and may your children

weep a thousand tears at your small and bewildered grave.

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