Pair o’ Prose Poems

Fire Safety Notice* for Poets


Kenneth Burchfiel

In the event of fire, stare at the flames in awe. Call your friends in Philosophy Club and ruminate with them over the fate of all things material. If you are in immediate danger, ponder the temporal nature of Earthly life and reflect on your childhood, when the cookie jar was within reach and you always beat your father at Connect Four.

If the fire is in your room: lock the door before the flames spread, thinking about how the mayor will declare you a hero tomorrow and plant a birch tree in your name. Realize how much you always hated the lyrics “It’s Getting Hot In Here.” Call your father; admit that he always was the better Connect Four player. Strain to finish this sentence before the fire consumes the paper.

If the fire is not in your room: do a fist pump, then experience uncontrollable guilt. Check your smoldering red doorknob for heat. Seal all doors and windows with your Robert Frost anthology. Head for the fire escape, you who always did exhibit cowardice at danger.

In either case, listen as your heart pulses frantically. Feel a drop of sweat roll down your forehead and sizzle on the ground. Watch the smoke crawl in from the other room while in the fetal position. Smell the smoke. It will remind you of the family fireplace on Christmas Eve. Compare yourself to a Yule Log. Commend yourself on your use of metaphor.

Do not panic, at any rate. Trained firefighters will soon arrive on the scene and access your room. They will ask why you have pen and paper out in a three-alarm blaze.

*This poem is structured on the “Fire Safety Notice” on the door of my room.


(This poem may seem to lack a meaning until one reads it without the “Filler.”)

I know you’re stressing over what Valentine’s day present to Get
don’t get worried sick. Just your offer to rent a van and drive us away
like to L.A. for next weekend is more than I could ever ask from
you Ever since dumb school started I know you don’t see much of me,
anymore. But really that just makes me want to go to Boston right now!


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