HOW TO EAT FIRE

At Coney Island Sideshow School, the teacher asks our group

to forget about nutrition. "You do not really eat the flame,"

she says. "You starve it of oxygen, then wait for the applause

to fizzle." Mary says, not good enough.

 

She starts with plastic lighters - snacks which leave her hungry

for more. She shakes down churches for candles. On Instagram,

campers share blurry images of the woman who scattered them,

wolfed down their campfire.

 

Not enough fires in town. A Brooklyn family almost dies:

luckily, the carbon monoxide alarm goes off in time.

Tooth marks are found on hobs. They match her dental records.

Crowds picket her front door, with cameras and signs.

 

I see her once more. At JFK, from the window of a 747.

Mary stands on the runway, arms spread, maw gaping,

rolled basalt eyes, skin the colour of a welder’s mask

as another plane’s failing jet engine screams flames into her.