Dennis Hinrichsen

Burn Ward

What did I know then of the resurrection


All I saw was how fire had eaten the honey
of his flesh.


Up one leg and into a shoulder,
most of a cheek.


And yet he stood, cradled
the rack, eyes


wet, blistered with shock,
as the cage closed


and the cables snickered in.
I thought Michelangelo’s


cool stone


(orderly at his elbow,
me carrying vials of blood


to C-Lab).


That seven story lift—last shaft of peacefulness
before the searing


sheeted in
and they’d peel


away his clothes, that fine webbing
of synthetic


and arm.
What howls rose then


beyond the heavy swinging doors
of the Burn Ward?


I walked by for weeks,
tried to see


the debridement,
the reverse burning,


water for
fire—the grafting—


the man partially lizard in that clean room.
The nurses’ bodies


through the Demerol
like raw angels


dabbing his burning half with a cotton ball
soaked in silver


he was chromed and barred.


A kind of xylophone whose primary song
was pain.


Cool stoke of the hammer:
new flesh (howl),


dream of wife’s body, island
he could sink his whole mouth onto,


healed (howl), risen
(howl again)—


time like an anvil—
somebody’s face (mine often)


pressed one side of a page-sized window
scratched by breath and hand.

Join the conversation