Poem on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

by Kathleen Balma

for Almodóvar

In my favorite movie a woman lights a fire in her bed
after trying all day to find her married lover,
to tell him she is pregnant. Now I know
what you’re thinking: the fire is a metaphor
for passion, but that’s not really what I mean.
What I mean is that I like the idea of a fire,
a real fire, being lit in someone’s bed
who has been trying all day to find her married lover
and tell him she is pregnant, but who instead
keeps finding her lover’s wife, and ends up
with no lover, no bed, and no abortion.

This flaming bed comes to her
at a time in her life when a flaming bed
is the least absurd thing that could happen,
so she does what anyone would do.
She stands there coughing like an idiot,
then goes back to the kitchen.
I like to imagine in that moment of standing
that she is thinking about her bed,
wondering if it’s ever been quite that hot before
and if so, when? I imagine she looks
at her sunny fire and sees herself

reflected there, as in an orange mirror,
then remembers all her really good sex
happened somewhere else. The roof!
she thinks, and turns for the door
just in time for all those sexy firemen
to burst in like flames and rescue her.
Because she still has that fantasy
of being rescued, and despite what people think
it’s really not that overrated,
especially not when you’re covered
in smoke and firemen.

KATHLEEN BALMA is a Fulbright Fellow and graduate of Indiana University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Mid-American Review, Good Foot, Chiron Review, and Suss: Another Literary Journal. She currently teaches Spanish in Connecticut.