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How To Burn Years

Bare and packed ground on the hillside just across the creek twisting alongside the road, the grass long ago rubbed away by the feet of dozens of roaming kids who left the flat floors and porches of their homes to feel the earth tilt on its axis beneath them.

And at the edges and sometimes the centers of those bald patches of hillside were the bones of ancient rocks and cliffs, always cool to the touch and painted with strokes of a dull moss, pressing out into the sun, restless beneath the root structures of old trees. Twin boulders jutting up from the earth.

The houses along the branch, all of them fragmented like the hills that encased them, tilted on blocks in some places, built on the very precipice of the mountain in others, each one rising and falling with the lay of the land, adjusting to that natural foundation. The houses spoke in the breeze easing through the valley, a tired voice, a lunger voice.

Before they could say much more, I poured the gas over the old homeplace. The broken steps, the flapworn doors, the cavity windows. I kept my eyes closed, the past just beyond the thin skin of my eyelids, the past in the turn of a corner hallway, the busted drywall of the living room, what I knew was the slim view of the back bedroom between a curled kitchen wall, sleepless nights, hunger, fear, hopelessness.

The smells of dark soil, the dank crawdad scent of the creek, opened my lungs, a running toss of winter whiskey in that space of earth.

And the twin boulders watched it all, a set of gritty, colorless eyes, sightless but aware somehow from eons of shade and shadow, watching my treachery, holding their breath as they always had and because of it holding everything else in place for all these years.

I struck my matches and the house groaned and the boulders allowed not so much as a tanglevine to cover their million-year-old glare, a useless witness rotting in the weather.


words: Sheldon Lee Compton, Kentucky (Bent Country)
image: 'Fibrious' - Jeff Crouch, Texas (more)


another way to burn years: Keepsake (#22)


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BluePrintReview - issue 25 - two²