Friday, February 15, 2008

Poetry Friday: Better to Marry than to Burn

I seem to have a fire safety theme going on this week.

In my defense, this poem was written several years ago, for the annual Artists and Authors show at The Collage (now the Smithfield Cultural Arts Center.) The show was built around the idea that one writer would view one artist's work, and write a response. The two works, art and written word, were then displayed side by side. One year, this was my inspiration:

Better to Marry
by Monica McCann

Knowing a biblical reference when I heard one, I filled in what was missing from that title (Better to marry...than to burn) and what resulted was part romance novel, part unsound theology, and one hot poem that I'm not sure what to do with, even today. I'm sure this sounds odd, but I have the strange feeling that I'm laughing at myself in this poem, even as I wrote it in all seriousness.

Happy Day After Valentine's Day!

better to marry than to burn?

He removes his shoes
before he enters
her house.

Later, she will find
a woolen thread
from his thick socks
to curl about her finger
as if it were a hair
from his body.

He is there
to change the batteries
in her smoke detector,
which she says
she cannot reach,
and which has ceased
to shriek, even when tempted
by blackened toast.

"Thank you," she says,
laying her hand
against the door
of his back
as if gauging flames.

she will mount
a chair and remove
the batteries, holding them
cold against her belly

While she burns,
in the remembered heat
of his back,
to the ground.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by HipWriterMama.


  1. Oooooh.
    I'm in with another disingenuous Biblical reference poem, but boy, I think I like yours better!!

    I never knew what to do with that verse quite anyway. It was one of those things no one ever explained... (and I wasn't sure I wanted to hear an explanation from those who would have offered one!!!)

  2. Oh, wow, this is scorching. Love it! *Going to remove all the batteries from our smoke detectors*

  3. I like how on the surface it reads like a tawdry romance novel, yet the word choices suggest it's tongue in cheek, "tempted by the blackened toast"- love it.

  4. And without your lead-in, I imagined that after the poem, out of frame, she took the batteries out and then set her house on fire (better to burn than to marry).

  5. I like the way you plot, Kelly...

  6. OOH - La-la!

    You never cease to surprise!

  7. This is a very sad poem. You've captured a wistful, lonely feeling and done it tenderly. I had to click on the picture to really look at the art. I'm still puzzling over it.

  8. I like the variety of responses to this poem: sizzle, sadness, amusement. I know that I wrote it, but I feel all those ways about it, too. I'm not sure what to do with it, exactly, except let it breathe and have readers bring to it what they will. I probably should have posted it without any explanation at all, except the picture, so as not to steer you to one reaction or another.

    I'm a stranger to my own words, sometimes, which I don't regret one bit.


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