Spontaneous Human Combustion

 “He burned from the inside out, not the outside in.  Now that’s real
  proof that this phenomenon’s for real.  And we’re all at risk.”
      -Rick Barton (Director of the International ParaScience Center)

Maybe it begins as a singe, cinder
     hissing from within, kindling beneath skin.
           The flush must feel much like lust at first,

           flicker-licks rippling concentric.
     Or perhaps heat skulks in like a childhood
fever, caul-wrapping bonnets of fire.

             Post-mortem pictures depict the same
     grim room: its filth and fifth of gin, its Pall
Mall pack—one smoke left—curtains pulled

tight against noon.  Even in photos, the reek
     seeps through.  Yellow on the window’s
          sill, char-sweet on the carpet in plumes.

Every easy chair can be a pyre.  No
     matter, that our bodies are bodies
          of water.  Forget the bottles of rot-

          gut, the acetone build-up.  The barbiturates,
     and the lit cigs blitzing house-dresses.
These flare-ups are spontaneous, impetuous

     as all of us—bound for ash and about to burst.

                    – Erika Brumett
                      Seattle, Washington