Holy Hell, Debra Kaufman

Charles Hood, Chair


Holy Hell


I didn’t know what or where it was,
only that it was bad and Jay said
we’d catch it if his dad found out
he’d swiped the matches.
Dark lurked in the playground shrubs.
The swings creaked in the wind.
It’s cold as hell, he swore again,
his chapped hands scurrying
like small wild animals.
He had me gather leaves and twigs.
I was good at doing what I was told.
I held my breath. The match flared 
and he touched it to the nest we’d made.
Run! and we did, the secret burning
in our combustible, thrilling little hearts.

Debra Kaufman


Review by Paul Pruitt

This unsettling poem captures nicely (if that’s the right word) the senseless, casual violence of children. 

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