The Night of the Fire

Maggie Millner

Just before the spark jumps like a louse
between the fraying braid of wires and the wall,

the building dreams itself unbuilding
joint by joint. The roof starts molting

shingles, floorboards fold
like wings, and bricks unlick the mortar

from their seams. The sheetrock
flenses outward, jilting nails. The nails

smelt down to lodes. A flight of stairs
deserts a floor, and wholeness, that capacity

for holding down a name, flits out
a void that would have once been called

a door. By now, the wood is living
greenly in the trees. The cornerstones,

unquarried, brace a cliff. Without a surface
nothing can be said to be confined: the air

rejoins the air, the water main rejoins a lake.
By the time it burns, the body is already

hardly there, so lushly it anticipates
the absence it will make.

Maggie Millner’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Awl, Narrative, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is currently at work on her first collection of poems.