Author’s note: This poem refers to Russian invasion of Ukraine. The author, who has Slavic roots, watches with the world in horror

Faces of Fire by Neil Garvie

Love is a fire, a longing
an expression
Fire lights the way. It calls me
I’ve learned all my life — it’s the source of comfort
a friendly warm hearth

Mother told me,
Don’t play with fire
but didn’t say why

Fear is fire
Trail by fire, take fire, open fire!
Fire incendiaries, fiery explosions

I look past the garden
Fire sparks from the rooftops
I cross the square
Fire scorches the cobbles
Fire burns a cross made of stone

I run through the city
I hide in bunkers that weren’t there before
I hide from the fire, but it finds me
It burns off my shirt
It licks at my skin
It seeps inside me

My eyes close
Faith is blistered
What good is hope?
What good is wishing?
Fire won’t stop when fueled
It incinerates.

Fire burns my memory
I walk through crumbling walls
Charred, smoking cinders
The smell of death, the smell of burning
it never stops
Mother’s unfinished lesson.