by Julie Hanson
Richard stopped our car partway
up our drive and did he
ever have a puzzled look:
why’s my wife just standing there,
exiled and outside? I pointed in reply
to the wires running overhead,
wires that, usually, we never notice,
and motioned to their juncture with our house
where a little fire had started.
Just one flame, really,
dancing in place on a wire
and making no headway whatsoever.
Nevertheless, the operator
at 911 had ordered me to
“get outside” and all this had
transpired in the flicker of time
it takes to travel four blocks east,
buy an o-ring for a hose
and travel four blocks back.
Richard waited with me there
a moment more while first the siren
and then the firemen arrived.
The three of them stood around
in their boots and padded coats,
refusing offers of lemonade
on a hot and otherwise quiet
Fourth of July. They’d already
phoned Alliant, who’d sent a man
who’d be there any minute.
I told them how I’d heard the POP
and come outside. Our neighbor,
Stan, told everyone he’d seen
a spark or something near the ground
out of the corner of his eye.
Shirley, who must be seventy
if she’s a day, came along from
three doors down
and was startled by a fireman
who yelled at her for running
underneath the wires.
Someone pointed out to everyone
that two lights were on inside.
That’s peculiar, we’d all thought.
Not only that: the oven,
air conditioner, and washer
which had been on, were off.
So Richard carried the two chickens
still in the roasting pan
down to Bruce and Nancy’s house
where we’d planned to eat them
anyway in a matter of hours.
For nearly twenty years it’s been
either their house or Richard’s and mine
every Fourth of July.
We start around six, we eat,
we catch up on each others’ lives.
We play a board game or croquet,
and, even in election years,
Nancy bakes a flag cake.