Pyromaniac – by Stephen Daniels

Algebra Of Owls

When I was three I lit a newspaper
through the grate in the gas heater.
I threw it close to the bin, next to the sofa.
Near my new-born brother.
I remember smoke a toddler deep,
mum’s screams lifted us up
and the sofa apologised.

It continued when I was 5
with a patch work arrangement
on the carpet. An obsessed child
can sprint surprisingly quickly,
moving from each heated exchange,
singeing existence with each pile.

At 7, there appeared to be a problem.
A back garden heap of black bags,
cackle and send smoke
signals to neighbours –
that shouldn’t be ignored.

8 years old is an odd age.
It’s when you become aware
of those around you –
and their desire to hurt you.
A hedge is a suitable victim
for ritualistic retaliation.
Sometimes a stare is enough.

9 is when they label you.
It’s when you visit

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