Fire!

When a cop bursts into the library
and yells Fire! Get out! We will not protect you!
panic ensues, because the plan had been
stay in place where we are surrounded
by concrete and greenery,
that which does not easily burn.

The firemen assure us that we should not leave;
cops and firemen spar with harsh words
and try to pull rank over one another.
Through sheer force of will,
the firemen extinguish the panic
and the police leave, defeated.
The firemen return to their jobs
as we retreat to our smoky sanctuaries
amid the stacks of books.

As I settle, I look at the weary, sleepless faces
of the Borderline survivors – huddled together
in a corner, trying to ignore the fact
that they’re in another large, public area
facing another crisis – I understand
that to them, there are two meanings
to the word fire.

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