Burnt Offerings

by Sylvia Freeman

I smelled it first,
reached up to find my hair on fire,
Pascal candle, Easter vigil,
burning bush of Moses.
Was I chosen once again,
‘on fire for the Lord’, supreme calling
in my childhood’s Baptist church?
In a dream, flames licked my blood red feet
in shards of shattered glass, water rushing past.

We lit a cardboard Viking boat,
launched it in the river,
swept up in the current,
blazed a path through the Hydrilla,
consumed a favorite photo,
notes of grief for my lost son.
It swerved around old rocks,
ancient as the river,
rounded broken limbs,
rotting leaves from recent rain.
We ran beside it on the shore,
followed with our eyes,
amazed how far it traveled
so quickly over rapids—stopped
in arms of fallen oak.
When we thought the flame was out,
it licked higher in midair,
one last flicker of good bye,
sank into the river.

I, luminous in a darkened church,
heard the gasps behind me
merging with Medieval plainsong,
quenched the fire with my hands,
smell of scorching hair,
burning vessel, holy water.

SYLVIA FREEMAN is a native North Carolinian, a writer, poet, award-winning photographer, and singer/songwriter for fleur-de-lisa, a women’s acapella quartet who use poetry lyrics in their original music. Her poetry has appeared in The Galway ReviewThe LakeWhen Women WakenCarolina Woman, and elsewhere. One of her photographs was featured in a special Best in Show exhibit in Palm Springs, CA, in 2017. Her photos can be found in Dove TalesHeron’s Nest, and the online gallery Fusion Art.