Scorched Earth

Poetry / Shastra Deo

For a long time I used to dream about smoke
swirling in an empty room. The wood
stumps we set to burn in the fireplace: crumbled

into ash and embers; transformed. The body
and the space it occupies: set alight.
The body and the space it occupied: dispersed.

Exploded. Illuminated—like dust particles
in a shaft of light. The smoke still rises; the scent of scorch
lingers, trapped, despite the passing of years.

The more I think about your body, the more I know
it is no longer your own: your heart is a house
with the doors left open; your brain is the basement

filled with smoke. The skeleton hidden under the flesh
of the floorboards. A stranger roaming the hallways, a
dappled shadow splashed on the wall, flickering in the firelight.

I remember peeling peaches in the gloaming,
the juice sluicing down your chin. The moths
threw themselves onto the bonfire and I knew what it was

to burn: your eyes alight and gleaming,
insects swirling a crown around your skull.
The world was on fire and your fingers

popped as you pressed your palms over the whites
of my eyes, the beat of your heart like
an unlatched door: open, shut, open.

Shastra Deo was born in Fiji, raised in Melbourne, and lives in Brisbane, Australia. She graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts and recently completed her honours year at The University of Queensland. Her work has been published in Peril, Uneven Floor, Sundog Lit, and The New Guard.