TOUCHSTONE
ART LIT ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY STAFF

Sitting in the living room on our bare bums,

carpet rubbing between our skorts and light up sneakers,

 

Anjela shows me a trick. If you dip your fingers

in the candle wax while it’s burning, it’ll harden

 

on your skin. I’m seven years old,

and this is amazing. It never gets old. We light every one

 

of my mother’s evergreen candles on the coffee table

and scoop up fat gobs of wax, giggling as it sets. At first I was scared

 

of the trick. I thought it would burn,

be more painful than it was beautiful,

 

but it’s not that it didn’t burn. I just got used to it. I craved the feeling

of charred skin like cigarettes and rum. It made me understand

 

what it meant to hurt so good, like massaging the knots in my back

or staring at the sun for too long. I’m sixteen years old,

 

and I now understand hurts so good as pouring peroxide

over an open wound, the pull of vomit during a hangover. Now it’s December,

 

the month we knew our best love. He lights his mother’s vanilla bean candles,

and I hover too close over the flames. Candles melt

 

into whatever I need them to be:

Our night light. The glow on his jawline,

 

keeping the shadow of his profile stuck on my brain.

He sees me shivering, drapes his favorite sweater over me,

 

and joins me on his bed. The tv is flashing

too brightly beside the candle, flickering

 

for the sake of flickering. They are equally

brainwashing. I’m eighteen years old,

 

I still have three of his sweaters

in my dorm room, I don’t know how to give

 

them back the same way I don’t know how to give

him back. Hurts so good is now the sound of his name

ALEXA
JOHNSON

BURNING FOR THE SAKE OF BURNING

Poetry

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