Start there, in
the unforgiving middle.
What matters most

and most painfully is
the screech:
the noise so fierce,

so brimming
with echo that its life
smacks you clean

across. It is breath,
the flame – not a stillness.
It has the most unfailing

pulse of anything for
a mile. Of carburetors,
of shoe-string,

of the rear window that
you embellished
in the yard. Of you,


now: any of your
gentle, mewling, over-
bitten lungs. Then,

if you ask
the more essential
question, I’ll tell you

it actually began with
shag. Stupor. Patches of
grass unfolding

over the admonished
dirt. Will you believe
that none of us

leaned out of paradise
craving this exploded
masterpiece? That

the punch had already
expired? Yet
you had to invite

the neighbors
to a garden party on
the snowiest afternoon


of winter. Daughter,
these splinters and this
kindling are your

blood and brain.
There is no going back
when the fire is

at play, and it
is, though it may be
hard to explain

how. What it means
to dance footless
over the world, to be

at and simultaneously
to be the mouth of
an unmarked road.

Suzanne Marie Hopcroft