By Dorianne Laux
for my nephew, Raymond
Since this morning he's gone through
an entire box of Safeway matches, the ones
with the outlines of presidents' faces
printed in red, white and blue.
He's not satisfied with one match at a time.
He likes to tip the book over the ashtray
and light them all up at once, the flame
less than an inch from his fingertips
while the fathers of the nation burn.
He doesn't care about democracy,
or even anarchy, or the message inside
that promises art school for half price
if he'll simply complete the profile of a woman
and send it in. The street address burns,
zip code and phone number, the birth
and death dates of the presidents,
the woman's unfinished face. I'm afraid
he'll do this when I'm not around to keep him
from torching the curtains, the couch.
He strikes match after match, a small pyre rising
from the kitchen table. I think I should tell him
about Prometheus and the vulture, the wildfires
now burning in the Oregon hills.
I want to do what I'm supposed to
and make him afraid, but his face
shines, bright with power,
and I can't take my eyes from the light.