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When children burned in Ben-Hinnom’s valley
was it like the hell of fiery red sparks
that lit black plate glass and a tired man’s face?
Only twice did he race forth barefooted,
once the night that followed a day of heat,
dry grass burning right up to our door step,
the other the time a waning horn chased
a car that hit me with almighty force.

Two different life experiences,
bare feet the common denominator,
the feet of a father who wore rage or
remorse depending on how close death was.
When my brother found a smoldering stick
after a long day of grass fires and tapped
sparks that wind carried past picture windows
I faced my Hinnom, Gehenna and hell.

Fire threatened to bind me as I lay sick
and offer me as an appeasing gift
on a funeral pyre whose heat I felt
until I heard terror in my brother
whose small voice filled the night when hit barefoot
by a man enraged that he had been fooled
in a world where smoke still haunts my life
as Hinnom’s valley haunts a city dump.

C.N. Bean is a poet and author who serves on the English faculty at Virginia Tech.

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