A brother hunches above the sidewalk, magnifying glass in hand. He turns
his wrist to make the light a strong string, shining noose. Watch, he says.
First it's paper, smoke without fire, then black ants with compartment bodies I still admire. Head (thought), middle (heart), back (what we leave behind).
Sometimes we are in the oil dark garage with wooden matches. The ants see
the flame coming, turn away. He lets it hover until the body curls. A hardened
question mark. I wonder if this is wrong, I think it might be wrong. I tell on him
for stealing matches from our mother's kitchen drawer. She grabs the wooden spoon,
bats at him. Little wrong boy, little one-too-many. He tells me:
the sun is fire, the heat in our house is fire. Our dad at night in the back yard, newspapers and paper plates:fire. He tells me he will kill me
when I turn sixteen. I walk the neighborhood, count years in the sidewalk's cracks,
skip over the ants. I am just learning math. I need help zipping my fire red jacket.
Crowded in our house, my mother forgets his name. FrankRickJohnTom! she yells.
My girl name is safe. I wonder how he'll do it. I dream of drowning.He teaches me
how to smoke. Sixteen comes and goes.
— Nancy Krygowski
Nancy Krygowski is the author of Velocity (University of Pittsburgh Press). An instructor at Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, she lives on a hill in Greenfield.
Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on 90.5 FM.