The Boy Who Will Burn
L'Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878
The boy who will burn runs the wide-open lanes, fluttering the ladies'
skirts, losing his cap. He is not on fire yet. Now he is the King of
Breezes, a boy with wings, a kite. Mother shouts Arrête!
and down he falls. He finds himself before thatch-roofed huts, a
painted sign: Les Aborigines!
Men throw sticks of fire high into the air. Men flip and catch fire
sticks with their toes. Men spin fire sticks in circles, and the boy
who will burn sees a glowing ring that hovers in the air. The ring of
fire is a dragon's eye. It winks.
The boy who will burn sees naked arms and legs. The men tossing fire
have skin like candy. The boy who will burn has skin like snow. Mother
cooks sugar in a pot, stirs until it bubbles. Il pleut sur le dragon,
Mother says, pouring cream like rain until the bubbles hiss and spit.
Steam rises to their faces: dragon's breath. The sugar stretches.
Mother loops flowers, rolls logs, pops a drop onto his lips, awaits his
Monsieur Dragon, says the boy
who will burn to the winking eye. He rushes past the thatched-roof huts
up to the brown-skinned men. He takes the dragon's flames into the
whiteness of his hands.
But the dragon swallows him. Through its teeth, the boy who will
burn— the burning boy—sees Mother swooping like a
jay. Men in tall hats sprout black wings and cover him with feathers.
The burning boy screams, heaving throatward, clawing for the coolness
deep inside the dragon's stomach. His skin is bubbling, white, black,
sausage-colored red. It won't be long. The burning boy thirsts for
Mother's fingertips. Nowhere in the whole wide world is there a sweeter
>>>NEXT STORY >>>
W i g l e a f