Self-Portrait with Bonfire

Here, the body exists
as burnt logs, as butane
leaked across the grass.
Ignite, the skin says
to the illegible sky.
There are seven ways
to cross between streets.
A dirt bike ramp made
of cow skulls. A tire swing
attached to pine needles,
& five cardinal directions
from one space to the next.
When we were young
& still fraught with heat,
the bonfire collapsed, rolled
us nearly to death. Listen
when the winds cry foul,
when smoke pushes you
against dream. Which
ash sings of violence
is a question the grass
does not want answered.

Justin Carter is the co-editor of Banango Street. The winner of the 2014 Sonora Review Prize, his poems appear or will appear in The Collagist, Hobart, Jellyfish, & Ninth Letter. He holds degrees from Houston & Bowling Green & can be found online at