You couldn’t tell me there were bears or gods
in the city, not even in the sky, so I didn’t
watch stars. I traced shapes in the spaces
between skyline.

The city is burning somewhere,
even where it isn’t. Fire-truck’s red
and white flash through the blinds,
interrupting my video games.
The family across the street cooked
over a fire on their front lawn, the smoke
prompting 911. One night, the son’s car
was in flames, parked in front of my house.
The family ran across the street with buckets
of water, fire lifting to the tree I had watched
grow, finally tall enough to climb (or would be,
if I were still the size I was when we moved here).
But this time, no truck yet. I fall against my front door.

In college geography my professor tried to teach me
to read maps. Back home, everything was flat
and gridded, though the neighborhood’s trees
overgrew gates, fences, property boundaries.

You can see both downtown and the stars
if you look at them from a distance, but not
if you’re looking from downtown. Everything
is steam. Every window is part of a constellation,
may someday be a black hole. Direction is merely
backdrop. There’s somewhere out there
but no matter where it is it’s fire.
~  ~  ~

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and is a poetry student in University of Michigan’s MFA program. His writings have been given homes by The Collagist, The Journal, Word Riot, and The Offing, among others. You can find him online at and @Marlin_Poet.