Incident (or my The Way of the Pilgrim)

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There was a character in a book I read
decades ago,
that took his life’s work to the middle of a field,
dumped the boxes of research,
notebooks filled cover to cover
with names and dates and detailed histories,
into a massive pile,
doused it with gasoline,
saw that he’d sloshed some accelerant onto his boot
but thought how the flammable liquid
on his person was inconsequential,
and struck his match.

The book ended with his lover,
who he’d sent ahead up the path of a nearby hill,
glancing back and seeing the flames,
knowing what they meant.

My professor professed this all merely illustrated
the main character had been able to let go of his obsession
and finally move on, at last fully commit
to his current life versus invest so much passion
into documenting ancient injustices.

I think he burned.

Why would any writer add such a detail,
anoint a character’s feet with lethal fuel,
leave him alone with the physical representation
of lifetimes of persecution and pain,
and expect a reader to not conclude
that you can no more escape your past
than you can a lit trail of gasoline?

April 2015
Julie Ayers
NaPoWriMo Day 10

 

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