Waking up in a burning house

Out of night’s troubled dream,
I wake and hear cries,
and people running down the hallway

I gather myself and listen –
Our house is on fire.


I count who is here,
every one of them,
all my family,
and throw open doors 

Some sleep heavily, and will need to be carried,
some are so fixed on their games
their toys need to be slapped from their hands,

some are curled up under the table, wailing,
others are drunk

most are our children

What choice do I have?
I’m not leaving anyone behind

resting’s not an option,
or panic

the floorboards are falling away, and soon,
if we don’t find a way out,
this place we call home and all of us will be gone

fools and derelicts,
those with matches still in their hands,
the deranged and the distracted
have nothing to give us now

the pompous hear nothing, see less

If you ask me my name, where I’m from,
or what right I have to raise the alarm
I’ll tell you there’s no time for that

look at the floor beneath your feet
see the smoke,
hear the tearing apart of the walls

there’s safety,

but also confusion, dense sleep,
and arrogance

others sound a pure, clear bell

If you want to talk about how this all happened,
or what can be done,
we’ll have to do it
with one or both of us in motion

From Open in Case of Emergency, New Poems, 2017, by Jason Espada,

Photo credits:

1. Causes and Effects of Desertification, Greentumble.com

2. Icebergs in Jokulsarlon, Iceland; Earth Rangers, Wild Wire Blog

3. Cell phones, Brian Bartels, VinePair

3. Beer cups, Vergecampus, The Odyssey Online

4. Yemeni kids, Lisa Yannucci, Mamalisa

5. Joint Session of Congress, Wikipedia

6. Buddha image, The Heart Sutra, painting by Elinor Luna

7. Thich Nhat Hanh, Blooming Heart Sangha