1 A girl puked on the tour bus on the switchback up Vesuvius. Her mother looked the other way —out the window. Where else? Wildflowers, hardy and tender, seemed unaware of the perils of flourishing in cinder. We trudged, as through beach sand, and when we got back on, sand had been shoveled onto the mess. I got my contraband: pumice out of the core’s juices—color puce— alarmingly warm from the crater, that supreme indifferent mater. 2 Chimeneas were all the rage. Hemispheric, the copper bowl hung fire, like the globe: a cross-sectioned model. In the dark behind us, what? Panthers, birds of prey. Night inverts the hierarchy. The flames of February purify the pique, the umbrage, the stuffy dreams, the nasal cathedral close with incense. Hence our embers spray and cleanse, our ash an alkaline scrub. Never mind the Pompeiian brain that turned to black glass— a dark crystal ball wherein came to pass the future: us, reflected in its sheen. Having excavated his dream (for we found the skeleton in bed), we speculate now on papyrus scrolls compressed into coded coals that rose into the skies as smoke, the burnt sacrifice of lyric, ode, supplication, obloquy. 3 The log wouldn’t take right away, and we had no accelerant. My son fetched dryer lint, which did its voodoo. It burned for the duration of a movie. (Firecrackers, leftover, passé, reminded us the year had turned but wetly they popped, distant, anticlimactic.) The full moon was lost in cloudcover, mist, winter’s high dew point. For as long as the hero kissed the heroine, or a great fortune was tied up in red tape, we would hold out for the plot which, abstracted to this, was passion’s caveat— its propensity to ashes swelling on a pillow of gases then subsiding under

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