Someday I'll Love the Firefighter

All I got was a check for April 1999’s
grocery bill. The scavenged bedtime
stories from the corner of commitment
and absolution taught me no firefighter
can save everything.

My sisters were saved—carried down
the safety ladder, bought teddy bears,
and prom dresses—but they wouldn’t
look at me over the reflective safety
strips wrapped around their savior. The
firefighter passed me a book of Sorrys
and I Love Yous, but I threw it
in the flames.

The candle on my palm burnt through
what was left of my bedtime stories,
and the glass of water on my bedside
table wasn’t enough to reawaken
childhood dreams of backyard BBQs
and goodnight kisses. From the ladder
at my window there were whispers
of resolution, but I was raised on
books in a house that burnt and
everyone knows firefighters
can’t live with flames.

At my seventeenth dance recital
I stumbled over expectation
and found my feet wearing
against the splintered floor, my ears
grappling for sirens, and my eyes
craning to see a firetruck under
the sign RESERVED with invisible
subtext… for fathers who want to clap
at their child’s pirouettes and brace
their falls. My mother reminded me
no firefighter can save everything.

Take me back to the corner
of commitment and absolution,
when bedtime stories smelled
of ignorance, not smoke, and
reflective safety strips were free
to envelop me in promises for
a better future. I want to love
the firefighter. Someday
I’ll love the firefighter.