Based on a true story. Yes, I knew her.
The dead dry leaves crunch beneath her tread.
She walks through a winter where no spring will come.
She tries to think, her mind a shattered mirror.
Thoughts kaleidoscope, just beyond her reach.
Even her own reflection warped and broken.
Frozen blistered hands carry the gasoline
Across this cold and silent field. The sun
Defiles the sky like a swollen crimson blood clot.
The stadium is full of happy stupid people.
They have long black and red scarves and rosy cheeks.
They drink hot chocolate, wave their pennants, shout and
Cheer their football team, their high school heroes.
The band parades across the fifty yard line.
The twirling batons flashing in the sun,
The saxophones and drums spew cacophony.
She walks across a field that gives no smiles.
The smell of gasoline fills her frozen nostrils,
Seduces her whirling brain with thoughts of peace.
A cloud descends upon her. She feels nothing.
Dimly aware of the cold and joyless sun
And the weight of the rusty gas can in her hands.
Calm she is now, there is no fear.
No more God, no more guilt,
No more heaven, no more hell
No more penance, no more pain
No more hope, no more loss.
She lifts the gas can high in supplication,
A high priestess on the altar of despair.
The gas cascades and soaks her clothes,
Covering her body like a mephitic sacrament,
Caressing her like a lover, drenching her clothes.
It finds her armpits, breasts, and crotch, and feet.
And still it pours, making her wet all over.
The plastic lighter is no longer in her pocket.
The flint wheel sparks.
Parents wave to sons and daughters on the field
Wishing they still wore their varsity sweaters.
Third quarter. Fourth quarter. Two minute warning.
Game over. Victory! The teams depart the field.
In a field a single vesper sparrow sings
Its lonely song to the slowly dying sunlight
And no wind moves the dead grass and dry leaves.
The swollen sinking sun is smeared with smoke.
An empty gas can lies prostrate on its side.
People are running hard across the frozen earth.
They thought they heard the sound of someone screaming.
-Stephen P. Smith