At night, hearing her muffled sobs
I’d find mother in the kitchen – the only
light coming from the open refrigerator.
She’d stand, hands in the ice bin,
trying to douse the fire beneath her skin.
Years later, it was her feet that burned,
then turned cold. Finally,
no feeling at all – losing toes
from long-ago leaping off the tower
where she watched the squadron’s return.
His Lancaster, the last to come in,
crippled and upon impact,
bursting into flame.
My poor father, forever competing
with that blazing ghost.
Today she’ll be cremated. Last night
I dreamed her body engulfed in flame,
helpless fear upon her face.
And I was too ambivalent to save her.
But no matter –
her young pilot came striding
through the pyre, swept her up
and carried her away.