We called him Zippo for the silver
lighter he'd stolen from his dad.
He let us roll the wheel in the dark
bathroom to see the flint sparks,
and on certain days he would dazzle
us with the trick of pinching the body
between thumb and fingers so it popped
open like a chest full of secrets.
He sat sometimes at night in a window
and let the flame burn while he waited
for his mother to come from the bars,
eyes singing the lone hours of morning.
No one needed to ask, when building G
scorched the treeline, when the wail
of sirens announced a boy's circus.
We gathered in the parking lot, charred
timbers corrupting to smoke and ash.
Apartments laid open like tinderboxes.
We clapped when a roof dropped into a living
room like a trapeze artist falling into a net
and laughed at the scrambling firemen
because the only clowns we knew
had hands of flame and eyes that burned
when our mothers told us to go to bed.