Wednesday, January 26, 2022



by Kara Stewart

The words are stuck



somewhere in my throat, all jagged points 


into soft inner


They won’t come out

They aren’t even the right ones

They are only the most used, most familiar, after decades of 


the dictionary,

the language

They are sloppy, rough 


slapped onto deep wounds

Instead of 

tiny, delicate stitches made with exactly



thread and exactly 




My brain wracks, trembles, groans

to find the delicate stitches,

the right thread;

stomps and storms in


at words trundled in its



I can smell them,


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Who Are You?

The barn is on fire. Blazing flames wallop out of the open double doors in front; they shoot jagged golden triangles through the small upper window used to haul hay. They send spiraling sparks into the night sky. Red paint, already weathered and worn from years of sun and rain, peels its final layers into red and black curls of charred embers and slides down the wooden siding. 

Who are you?

Do you lead the horse through the barn doors to safety, emerging from the smoke and flames into the cold night air? Do you whisper soothingly into its mane as it dances sideways, feeling the heat of the flames on its flanks? Does smoke lift off your sweater; do sparks crackle in your hair? Did you hastily throw your jacket over the horse’s eyes when you reached its stall because you knew it would panic if it saw the flames rising closer, closer? 

Who are you?

Are you whickering nervously as unnatural heat grazes your flanks? Do your eyes roll in fear, nostrils widen as you smell acrid smoke, see the flames shooting skyward? You want to bolt. You cannot. You are trapped. You scream and toss your head. You dance sideways. Dark softness is tossed over your eyes and wrapped around your head. In the dark, you can breathe. As long as you do not see the flames of reality, as long as you are helped to ignore them, you can be coaxed to move. 

Who are you?

Are you on the hill outside the barn, under the stars, mouth open in horror, eyes reflecting sharp yellow flames? Do you hug your arms around yourself, not trusting what you see to be true? Do you stare in silent shock at the ones shouting directions that are unheard, unheeded, unnecessary? 

Do you shout directions: unheard, unheeded, unnecessary?

Who are you?

Are you frantically lined from barn to farmhouse, passing thimbles of water to throw on the two-story wall of flames? Do you snatch each bucket with furious speed and shove it to the next in line, water sloshing over the top? Does your adrenaline pump so full and fast that you barely feel your arms, your hands, for the millisecond they grip each heavy bucket? Do you move through the horror with desperate, defeated action while a corner of your mind, the corner you keep hidden even from yourself, knows these Herculean efforts will not stop the barn from ending up a smoldering heap tomorrow?

Who are you?

Are you in the house, calling 911, making redolent pots of strong coffee and keeping the children safely inside? Do you soothe and shush the littlest ones and tell them, "Go back to bed, everything is fine." It is a lie, you know it as you say the words but you tell yourself they will believe. Do you take towels out of the linen closet and stack them by the sinks? Pace back and forth because you still don’t hear the rescue sirens coming to put the fire in your beloved barn out for good? Where is the fire engine, where is the fire engine, you wonder. Why aren’t they coming? What is taking so long?

Who are you?

Did you sneak out of the back door into the night that should be black but is lit up like a permanent firecracker? Are you crouching down, watching in your thin pajamas, shivering, unseen, hugging your dog's warm familiarity close? Are the flames oddly beautiful as their bright sparks circle into the black sky? Can you hear the whoosh from the force of the fire pushing out of the barn? Do you wonder if anyone else hears it? No one does. Just you. Always just you. You shiver and pull your friend closer, not from fear of the flames, but from cold.

Who are you?

Do you stay close to your human as she slips from her bed and sneaks out the back door? Do you sit next to her, pushing your strong shoulder blade into her to steady her? Do you give her cheek a quick lick and settle into her lap to warm her as she pulls you in? Do you smell the smoke, hear the whoosh from the force of the fire and know you must stay with your small human? But she is a smart girl. She will not go near the flames. Not this kind anyway. 

Who are you?

Do the flames burn through you like hell’s own dragon? Do they shoot out your eyes, razing everything within, from the most delicate, soft pink mousling heart nests to rough, rusty saw blades hanging on your walls? Do the flames destroy you from the inside out? Will they be the end of you and all you held dear in your comfortable sheltering walls? Do they destroy those within and those without, all in different measure? Do you burn with fury, knowing you will be a pile of rubble tomorrow, wisping white smoke rising from your belly? 

Who are you?

Does the tip of your cigarette flare red as you breathe it to life? Do you toss your lighter across the ditch, into the frosty field, far from your rusty pick up? Do you open the creaking door, climb into the cab, and take a couple of cranks to start the engine? You look in your rearview mirror across the fields and hills at the glowing roar of the barn through the darkness, shrinking to a pinprick as you drive away, billows of white exhaust lingering behind you. Do you grunt in satisfaction? Or dismiss that chapter without a second thought?

Who are you?